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Utah basketball: Utes embrace challenge as they face No. 9 Arizona

Published February 16, 2013 1:35 pm

Pac-12 basketball • Utah has reputation as pesky underdog.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Larry Krystkowiak has always been one to recognize a challenge.

And with regard to No. 9 Arizona visiting the Huntsman Center on Sunday afternoon, the challenge for Utah appears to be enormous.

In January, the Utes pushed the Wildcats — then ranked in the top five nationally — to the final possession of the game, having two shots to win it at the end. But that was before Utah had earned itself a reputation as the pesky underdog occasionally able to jump up and defeat some conference favorites.

There will be no sneaking up on Arizona on Sunday. Not only are teams well aware of what Utah is capable of, Arizona is coming off a lopsided loss to Colorado Thursday and will need a win to prevent a significant slide in the national rankings.

"We know what we're in for," Krystkowiak said. "But we always just try to focus on what we can control, one game at a time, like always. Arizona has always been a great team with great talent. They have a number of guys who are going to play in the NBA, so anytime you are playing a roster like that, there are going to be some challenges."

The formula last month was simple for Utah, even if it was difficult to execute. The Utes held their own in the rebounding battle.

They controlled star point guard Mark Lyons and never allowed the Wildcats to establish dominance offensively in the paint.

But Solomon Hill proved to be the wild card Utah didn't have many answers for. The 6-foot-8 small forward is one of the best all-around players in the league, and the Utes weren't successful when they needed to slow him down a bit.

"He presents a bunch of issues," Krystkowiak said. "He's someone who can get into the lane and score. He can rebound and get to the basket. But if you play too far off him, he can step back and drill a 3-pointer in your eye. He's difficult to guard."

Utah has proven to be a thorn for the top-tier teams in the league. In addition to scaring teams such as Arizona, UCLA and Oregon, the Utes have beaten Colorado, Washington and Arizona State.

Krystkowiak and the Utes are aiming for their first winning streak as members of the Pac-12.

"We're confident we can come out and be competitive," freshman forward Jordan Loveridge said. "We know how good a team Arizona is. They have great talent, and they are coming off a loss so they will be pretty focused. We just have to come out and play well and play hard." —

No. 9 Arizona at Utah

O At Huntsman Center

Tipoff • Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Network; Radio • 700 AM

Records • Utah 11-13, 3-9; Arizona 20-3, 8-3

Last meeting • Arizona 60, Utah 57 (Jan. 6, 2013)

About the Wildcats • Mark Lyons leads Arizona with 15.4 points per game. … Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson also average double figures. … Arizona has lost two of its past three games. Arizona is still tied for the conference lead.

About the Utes • Jason Washburn led Utah with 26 points in a win over Arizona State on Wednesday ... Utah is attempting to exceed its conference win total from last season. ... Utah has won two consecutive games at home.