It’s been a week since the Utes have hit the hardwood. Utah was previously scheduled to play in Tempe on Thursday evening against Arizona State until the game was postponed due to Covid health and safety protocols within the Sun Devils program. Now, the Utes will gear up for a trip to Tucson to take on a really good Wildcats team. Arizona comes into the game on a three-game win streak and a 13-1 record overall (their only loss on the road to #19 Tennessee) and 3-0 in conference play. Arizona beat Colorado Thursday night at home 76-55 after a big second-half run. Arizona is currently listed as a #1 seed in a recent bracketology projection by ESPN, so this will be an extremely tough contest for the Utes in a difficult road environment. Bennedict Mathurin is certainly one to watch out for as he leads the Wildcats averaging 18.5 points per game as well as former Ute Pelle Larsson. The Utes enter this contest on a four-game losing streak and are 8-8 overall and 1-4 in conference play. The Utes last played Saturday when they lost at home to Washington State 77-61 behind hot shooting early by the Cougars. The Utes will be without Branden Carlson again as he suffered an appendicitis attack last Friday evening and will be sidelined for a few weeks as he recovers. Carlson’s absence will be a huge blow in an already difficult contest for the Utes; the Utes also continue to be without Boystyn Holt with a season-ending injury.
When: Saturday, January 15 at 6 pm MT
Where: McKale Center (Tucson, AZ)
How to Watch: PAC 12 Network
Next Game: Utah @ Arizona State (rescheduled date) on Monday, January 17 at 2 pm MT on the PAC 12 Network
14:00- We finally get our first timeout of the game as Utah gets off to a great start and leads Arizona 15-12. Utah has had a strong start to this game as they are constantly driving to the basket and getting good, close-range looks. The Utes are shooting 75%. Also, a great sign as Dusan Mahorcic leads the Utes with 6 points, great to see him going early.
12:00- The score remains the same after the next timeout as Utah leads 15-12. Arizona’s offense has been cold to start the game as they have missed their last 4 shots and the Utes are continuing to play some scrappy defense and getting some good fortune on some Arizona miscues.
8:00- It’s been an ugly game so far for both teams but this is exactly the kind of game Utah wants and needs. Utah leads 19-14 and has maintained the lead nearly the entire game so far. Arizona has been ice cold and is shooting 1-8 from 3 point range (12.5%) and 5-18 overall (27.8%). The Utes have been the most successful when they are driving to the paint and are shooting 53.3% from the field so far. Utah is also forcing some Arizona turnovers as they already have 9 turnovers in the game. The Utes have had a great defensive effort so far.
3:00- Arizona definitely going on a run and the crowd is getting into it but Utah leads 24-23. The Utes at one point led 24-18 before Azoula Tubelis got a big layup and had a chance for a 3 point play but missed the free throw; he leads all scorers with 11 points. Utah transfer Pelle Larsson also gets on the board with a foul and 1 for his first basket of the game. Utah really needs a basket to get some momentum back. Turnovers have been costly for the Utes as they have 8 so far this half.
2:00- Arizona and Utah trade baskets before Utah has shot blocked after a great offensive rebound leading to a Utah foul. On the free throw, Arizona makes the first and misses the second leading to an offensive rebound and putback. Arizona now leads 30-28. Utah really needs to close out the half well and get into the locker room.
0:00- Arizona was on a 9-0 run in a 2-minute span before Gabe Madsen hit a big 3 and despite leading most of the half Utah trails Arizona 34-31 at the break. All things considered, it could have been a lot worse for the Utes after the run Arizona went on to end the half but a really solid defensive effort from the Utes has kept them in this game throughout. Arizona has been far too reliant on 3 point shooting and they are shooting 1-12 for 8.3%. Another big factor is that Utah has forced 10 first-half turnovers from the Wildcats. Azoulas Tubelis has single-handedly given Arizona the lead as he leads all scorers with 16 points. Tubelis had a few huge dunks to ignite the crowd in the final 3 minutes of the half and has definitely given Arizona spark. The Utes will have to regroup and continue to force perimeter shooting from the Wildcats as well as driving to the paint to keep getting close-range looks if they are going to keep this game close in the second half. Definitely a strong first-half performance overall from the Utes. Get after it in the second half Utah!
16:00- I am absolutely loving the energy from Dusan Mahorcic! He leads all Utes with 10 points right now and has had two big baskets. Arizona still leads 38-35 but Dusan has had the last 4 points of the game after Arizona had extended their lead to 38-31 to begin the half. Arizona continues to keep firing away from 3 point range but they are still only 1-16 and 6.3%. The Utes got a little too trigger-happy with a few 3 point attempts to begin the second half before Dusan used his physicality in the paint. The Utes have to keep attacking the basket if they are going to have success.
14:00- Yikes, Arizona can get going really quick. The Wildcats go on a 6-0 run and now lead 44-35 prompting a quick timeout from Craig Smith. Turnovers continue to plague the Utes as they have had 13 in this game. Arizona has also had 6 steals leading to a few easy baskets in the last minute and a half. Danger time right now for Utah, we have to answer to stay in this game.
12:00- Right on cue after the timeout Both Gach, who has been pretty quiet tonight, knocks down 2 straight 3 pointers to get Utah right back into the game. He is clearly growing in confidence and even knocked down a heavily contested floater in the lane. Arizona found an answer as Utah was gaining momentum with another open cutter to the basket and Utah cuts into the Arizona lead and only trails 48-45. I absolutely love the fight this team is showing; on the road against the #6 team in the country and every time Arizona has looked poised to extend their lead Utah has found an answer. Different players at different times have stepped up for the Utes throughout the game. Great effort, let’s lock it down!
9:00- The Utes have no answer for Tubelis right now, he leads all scorers with 28 points and continues to find open looks. Far too often he just makes a cut towards the basket and is open for an easy dunk or layup and has continued to find open space in the paint leading to easy baskets. The Utes must find yet another answer as they now trail 56-45; the game is yet again in danger of slipping away for Utah.
7:00- Well this got out of hand really quickly. Utah has a 5-minute drought and counting and trails Arizona 64-45 after Arizona hits only their second 3 point shot of the game prompting a timeout from Craig Smith. Arizona’s size advantage is definitely getting to Utah as Arizona is focusing on getting the ball in the paint and they are finding some easy baskets. Utah has had no answer on the offensive end. Utah now has 17 turnovers in the game and 4 turnovers in the last 4 minutes.
3:00- FINALLY, over 7 minutes without scoring and we finally get to the free thrown line and score some points followed quickly by a Lahat Thioune basket for our first made field goal since around the 12-minute mark. Arizona has gotten a little sloppy the last two minutes and Utah is still fighting. Arizona leads 67-49.
Final Thoughts: Arizona Wins 82-64
If you only look at the scoreline it looks like it was a pretty rough night for Utah. However, the Utes actually led for the first 15 minutes of the first half before trailing Arizona 34-31 at halftime. Arizona began the second half making some early runs and on multiple occasions, Utah answered to get back within 3. Eventually, the Utes ran out of gas at the 12-minute mark and went a 7-minute drought at which time Arizona pulled away. Arizona led by as much as 23 points but Utah just continued to battle all night to close the gap. Azoulas Tubelis just dominated the Utes in this game as he had a career-high and led all scorers with 32 points. Both Gach led the Utes with 12 points. Arizona shot 50.8% from the field but was only 3-18 (16.7%) from 3 point range. Arizona’s size was a big factor in their late run as the Utes just appeared exhausted after battling all night with Arizona and the Utes just ran out of creativity on the offensive end and couldn’t find an answer. The Utes were also plagued by turnovers as they had 20 on the night. Despite the loss, there is a lot to be proud of from the Utes. The Utes went toe to toe on the road against the #6 team in the country and led for most of the first half and battled back multiple times, all without Branden Carlson. Craig Smith and this team will have a lot of positives to take away from the game and it was great to see the fight from the team all night despite the loss.
Next Up: Utah at Arizona State on Monday, January 17 at 2 pm MT on the PAC 12 Network