The Runnin’ Utes are fresh off a two-game Bay Area sweep of Stanford and Cal in two impressive and very different wins. Against Stanford, Utah trailed nearly the entire game until the final couple of minutes when they rallied from 9 points down for a comeback win against the Cardinal 60-56. Against Cal, the Utes led nearly the entire game before Cal made a desperate rally in the final minutes, but the Utes held their nerve and did enough to beat the Golden Bears 60-58. The Utes have now improved their standing in the PAC 12 conference with their back-to-back wins by moving from an #11 seed to a #10 seed if the PAC 12 Tournament started today. The Utes return to Salt Lake City for the first of a 3 game homestand against the #2 Arizona Wildcats. In their previous meeting at Arizona on January 15 the Utes were without Branden Carlson and were within 3 with 12 minutes to go in the game before Arizona held the Utes to 7 minutes without a basket and the Wildcats won 82-64. In that game Azoulis Tubelis went off for 32 points. The Utes were still (at that time) finding their identity and opted to slow the game down. In the last month, the Utes have looked to speed up the game and have been playing tougher on defense. The Utes have had the most success and wins this season when they have held their opponent under 60 points. Arizona is coming off an exciting 84-81 home win against Oregon on Saturday evening and they are currently locked in for a #1 seed in all NCAA Tournament projections. The Runnin’ Utes enter the game with an 11-16 record overall and 4-13 in conference play. Arizona enters with a 24-2 record overall and 14-1 in conference play. The Runnin’ Utes are led by Both Gach with 9.3 points per game while the Wildcats are led by Bennedict Mathurin with 17.4 points per game. Branden Carlson is day to day with a sprained ankle in the final minutes of the Cal game Saturday so he will be a game-time decision. As if this game wasn’t special enough (hosting the #2 team in the nation) it’s also Military Appreciation Night so the Runnin’ Utes will be sporting some special uniforms tonight in a PAC 12 after dark special. Let’s give the Wildcats a run for their money and get the Huntsman Center rocking tonight!!
When: Thursday, February 24 at 9 pm MT
Where: Jon M. Huntsman Center (Salt Lake City, UT)
How to Watch: FS1
20:00- Big news ahead of tip-off that Branden Carlson will not only play but he is in the starting lineup for tonight’s matchup. Great news for the Utes.
18:00- Well that started about as poorly as it possibly could as Arizona jumps out to an 8-0 lead. The Wildcats are getting some easy baskets (all lay-ups) as they are setting screens and then driving to the basket for easy looks; something that killed the Utes in Tucson.
15:00- After a terrible start for Utah the Runnin’ Utes respond with a 7-0 run of their own before both teams trade baskets. The Wildcats lead 13-9. Tubelis leads the Wildcats with 6 points and Gach leads the Utes with 5 points. Tubelis had 32 points in their first meeting in Tucson so it is vital the Utes slow him down.
12:00- Utah loses possession and Arizona manages to gain possession and call a timeout which leads to an official timeout as the Wildcats lead 18-15. Branden Carlson hit a big 3 moments ago to tie the game at 15 all before Arizona answered to get the lead just before the timeout. Solid response from the Utes.
8:00- Really scrappy game so far as Arizona leads 25-22. Both teams clawing for every rebound and stats are pretty even across the board as far as field goal percentage, 3 point percentage, and rebounds. The Utes have come close to taking the lead but just haven’t been able to get over the hump so far. It’s going to be a physical game tonight.
5:00- Utah briefly took the lead 28-27 before Arizona started knocking down 3’s like crazy to jump out to a 36-28 lead prompting a quick timeout from Craig Smith. Turnovers have hurt the Utes in the first half as yet another turnover led to a big 3 from the Wildcats. The Utes need a response heading into the locker room.
4:00- Arizona has really increased their intensity in the last 3 minutes and have their largest lead of the game at 40-30. The Wildcats have forced 7 turnovers so far leading to some easy baskets for the Wildcats. To make matters worse Arizona forced a travel on a press of Both Gach and will have the ball coming out of the timeout.
0:00- Well the last 6 or 7 minutes of the first half couldn’t have gone any worse. For a brief moment the Utes led and then Arizona upped their intensity on both ends of the court by about a thousand. The Utes finally ended a 14-0 Arizona run with a Gabe Madsen 3 before Kerr Kriisa hits a half-court shot at the buzzer to give Arizona a 53-33. In the first game, it was all about Azoulis Tubelis, in this game Kerr Kriisa already has 21 points on 7 3’s; someone needs to douse him with an ice bath to cool him off at halftime because that was ridiculous. The Runnin’ Utes are led by Both Gach with 9 points. Arizona shot over 50% from the field and 3 point range in the first half. Turnovers killed the Utes as they had 9 in the first half. The Utes need to regroup and take it one possession at a time to slowly chip away at this lead if they are going to make a run in the second half. Let’s hope we see some angels (“Angels in the Outfield” reference) in the second half.
16:00- Unfortunately the second half picking up where the first half left off as Arizona forcing turnovers and getting some easy baskets to extend their lead to 67-40. Tubelis starting to come alive for the Wildcats as he has had a couple of baskets and has a chance for a 3 point play with a free throw coming after the timeout.
12:00- Arizona getting a little sloppy with the ball in the last couple of minutes and Kerr Kriisa picks up a technical foul for arguing and the Utes slightly cut into the Wildcat's lead 70-48.
6:00- Arizona leads comfortably 84-63 as Utah hasn’t stopped fighting but Arizona has a response every time the Utes get to within under 20 points. Arizona has turned the last couple of minutes into an effort by each player to make Sportcenter’s Top Ten Plays as all their bigs are attempting highlight-reel dunks. David Jenkins Jr. has had some acrobatic shots to chip in with 12 points of his own off the bench. You have to imagine the Wildcats will begin to pull their starter in the next couple of minutes.
3:00- Arizona hits a few 3’s to continue to pull away and lead the Utes 93-65. Both teams have spent the last 2 minutes jacking up 3’s looking to pad their stats. It’s definitely been a deflating couple of minutes for the Runnin’ Utes as Arizona has completely overrun the Utes.
Utah battled hard in the first half and actually led this game with about 7 minutes to go in the first half before the wheels completely came off. Arizona ended the first half on a big run and led 53-33 field by 21 points from Kerr Kriisa. It was a lot of the same in the second half as Arizona extended their lead to as much as 29 points before the Utes battled back to lose 97-77. It was always going to be difficult to beat the #2 team in the country and Arizona truly showed their quality throughout the game tonight as all 5 of Arizona’s starters finished in double figures. Azoulis Tubelis was once again the leading scorer with 23 points and Kerr Kriisa finished with a triple-double in points, rebounds, and assists. Gabe Madsen led the Utes with 15 points. Believe it or not, this was the first win for Arizona in Salt Lake City since 2018. Arizona shot over 50% from the field (compared to 40.3% for Utah) and outrebounded the Utes 46-34. Utah hurt themselves with 15 turnovers on the night. It was a tough reality check after the Utes completed their Bay Area sweep the previous week. Utah still has an opportunity to finish on a high note with two home games to end the season against Arizona State and Colorado. Time to dust ourselves off and go again.
Next Up: Utah Runnin’ Utes vs Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday, February 26 at 8 pm MT on ESPNU