When Utah hosted #2 Arizona Thursday night, there was cautious optimism after the Runnin’ Utes had a two-game Bay Area sweep of Stanford and Cal that it would be a competitive game. Unfortunately, Thursday night was a harsh reminder of the gap facing Utah against the elite competition in college basketball as Arizona easily defeated Utah 97-77 behind a 23 point effort from Tubelis and 21 points from Kriisa. The Utes led by 1 with 7 minutes to go in the first half before Arizona went off in the final 7 minutes and led 53-33 at the half. The game continued to spiral in the second half as Arizona had their way with the Utes and led by as much as 29 before Utah did what they have done all season and fought till the final whistle to get to a slightly more respectable margin. Despite the performance on Thursday Utah still has two home games to end the season to determine final seeding ahead of the PAC 12 Tournament the following week. If the tournament started today Utah would be assured no worse than an #11th seed but could get a #10 seed depending on their own results and Cal’s final games. Utah and Arizona State last met in Tempe on January 17 when Arizona State narrowly edged Utah 64-62. Arizona State has improved significantly since that game and has had some quality wins against UCLA and Oregon. Arizona State (if the tournament started today) would be a #9 seed. Arizona State enters the game with an 11-16 record overall and 7-10 in conference play. The Utes enter with an 11-17 record and 4-14 in conference play. The Sun Devils are led by DJ Horne with 12.2 points per game while the Utes are led by Branden Carlson with 13.3 points per game. The Utes have two home games ahead to gain some momentum heading into the conference tournament, let’s get the Huntsman Center rocking tonight!
When: Saturday, February 26 at 8 pm MT
Where: Jon M. Huntsman Center (Salt Lake City, UT)
How to Watch: ESPNU
15:00- At the first timeout both teams shooting above 50% but Utah has a 9-8 lead. Great to see Marco Anthony off to a fantastic start as he has 7 points already. A fast-moving game as both teams are looking to run.
12:00- The game is all tied up at 18-18 as the Utes are shooting a blistering 66.7% from the field. It would be great to see that continue. The only problem is Arizona State has been up to the challenge and has had 3 3’s compared to only 1 so far for the Runnin’ Utes. The Utes need to find their defense.
8:00- Lazar Stefanovic might be arrested for breaking ankles after a stepback that puts his defender on the ground and then calmly buries the 3. After a hot start for both teams, they have definitely cooled off a more cagey approach from both teams but Utah leads 23-20.
4:00- All tied up at 28-28. The Utes are shooting nearly 55% from the field but unfortunately a total of 5 turnovers on the night have prevented us from building a lead.
0:00- An interesting first half in the books as Arizona State leads 33-30. Both teams started hot but the defensive effort kicked into gear after both coaches made some adjustments. The Utes are shooting 57.1% from the field but only 25% from 3 point range. Arizona State has shot 42.9% from the field and 22% from 3 point range. Turnovers hurting the Utes in the first half much as it has this season. Marco Anthony leads all scorers with 11 points and Jalen Graham leads the Sun Devils with 10 points. The Utes need to get some better ball movement to start the second half as they began to get a little too predictable. Time to turn up the heat Utes!
16:00- Timeout taken as Lazar Stefanovic took a shot to the eye. He’s getting checked out but seems to be okay. It’s been a quicker pace to the game to start the second half and Arizona State has built a 41-36 lead. The Utes desperately need other people to step up and contribute because Marco Anthony has done a lot of the heavy lifting so far.
13:00- Arizona State making a strong run as they build a 47-38 lead. The Utes are once again becoming too stagnant on offense and are having a hard time getting points in the paint due to the size of the Sun Devils. The Utes are also struggling on the glass as they have been outrebounded 24-18. The game is in danger of getting away and the Utes need to respond.
11:00- Unfortunately it’s gotten worse for the Utes since the timeout as Arizona State has extended their lead to 52-38. The shots are just simply not falling for Utah after they had 3 shots in a row after a couple of offensive rebounds and couldn’t get a basket to fall. The next couple of minutes will be critical if the Utes are going to make a comeback.
9:00- YES!! Great response from the Utes as they end a nearly 5-minute scoring drought by going on a 7-0 run of their own to trail the Sun Devils 52-45. Gabe Madsen and David Jenkins Jr. hitting big 3’s to lead the charge and the Utes have drastically picked up their defensive intensity.
7:00- Tough stretch after the Utes had really started to pick it up on both ends of the court but the Sun Devils respond with a pair of 3’s from Jay Heath to lead all scorers with 20 points and the Sun Devils lead 58-45. The Utes can find a way back into this game but must consistently knock down some big shots and get back to that disruptive defense because Arizona State has been ruthless tonight.
3:00- Utah making a late run to try to get back into the game as Marco Anthony knocks down a pair of free throws and then hits a jumper in the lane to cut the lead to 59-52. It’s do or die time for the Utes.
1:00- Wow that was an unbelievable couple of minutes as Utah’s defense is suffocating and the offense has come alive. Worster called for a highly questionable foul but the Sun Devils miss the free throw and on the other end Carlson knocks down a massive 3 to tie the game at 59-59. Just as this team has done a lot this year they have never stopped fighting and are now right back in the game with a minute to play.
Heartbreaking finish once again for the Utes as Worster called for a foul and the Sun Devils knock them both down. The Utes responded with a dunk on the other end from Marco Anthony before Marreon Jackson hits a highly contested layup with 6.2 seconds left. The Utes quickly drove down the court but a last-second shot on the baseline from Rollie Worster does everything but fall as the Sun Devils outlast the Utes 63-61. The Utes trailed for most of the game but fought hard only to have it slip away at the very end. The Utes have been in so many games this season that it hurts to lose yet another game in dramatic fashion. The Utes shot 44.2% from the field compared to 49.1% for the Sun Devils. Rebounds really hurt the Utes in the game as the Sun Devils led 35-28 on the glass. In the end, the Utes dug too big a hole for themselves before stepping up defensively. Jay Heath led all scorers with 20 points while Marco Anthony had 19 to lead the Utes. The Utes will have some time to lick their wounds as they will play their season finale at home next week Saturday against Colorado. Time to regroup and build some momentum for the PAC 12 Tournament.
Next Up: Utah Runnin’ Utes vs Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday, March 5th at 7:30 pm MT on ESPNU (Senior Day)