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Utah erases 17 point deficit but loses to Arizona at the Huntsman Center

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Utah Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the Utah Runnin’ Utes erasing a 17-point deficit, the team’s comeback fell short in a loss to the Arizona Wildcats Thursday evening at the Huntsman Center.

The Number 14 ranked Wildcats, who controlled the tempo for most of the game, walked out of Salt Lake City with a 94-82 win over the Utes.

Utah shot just 37 percent and trailed by 14 points going into the half. The team came out and played aggressive in the second half and fought their way back into the game. Thanks to Sedrick Barefield’s 20-point second half effort, the Utes didn’t get blown out. They were able to tie the game at 77-77 with 3:45 left, but came up empty in 11 of its next 13 possessions, turning the ball over three times and then just going 2-for-9 down the stretch. Arizona countered over the final 3-plus minutes, converting 15-of-16 from the free throw line.

Although Barefield dropped 20 in the second half, his shot was cold in the first half, where he found himself with only three points. Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak encouraged him to keep shooting.

“He got his stroke going and he has been shooting well in practice. He hasn’t been shooting it well all season, [but] I reminded him of a guy named Brandon Taylor, a couple years ago I think, shot 20 percent in the pre-season and ended up being one of the league-leaders in shooting in Pac-12 play. I’d rather have guys struggling in the pre-season and stay true to how we are playing, defending, and all of those things, and then start catching some breaks. I’m convinced karma has something to do with that, you know it was a good night for him to get it going but we just didn’t have enough of the other components,” Krystkowiak said.

Utah had four players overall score in double figures. David Collette added 19 points, Tyler Rawson totaled 16 points and Justin Bibbins chipped in with 14 points.

Bibbins led the team with eight assists and Barefield dished out six assists on the evening. Donnie Tillman, who made his return to the court on Wednesday, led the team with six rebounds and three steals.

“If you look at the games that Donnie has played, his best games are games that are big physical teams,” said Krystkowiak. “The UNLV’s, Butler’s, and Missouri’s; and he cannot play extended minutes. I though he got a little winded and missed a few offensive execution plays that we really needed and you have to have all five guys going, but I’m glad to have him back I hope his foot stay’s out of the picture and he’s able to keep building and his best basketball is ahead of him. I think he loves games like this, you know he is physical and you just have to make sure that everyone does what they do.”

With the loss, Utah falls to 29-32 all-time against Arizona. The Utes are now 20-11 when facing the Wildcats in Salt Lake City.

Next Up

Utah hosts number 4/6-ranked Arizona State this Sunday, January 7. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.