Tucson, Ariz. • Throughout the season, Arizona has made it a habit of catching fire for a stretch and blowing its opponents away.
Utah wasn’t a victim of a quick and decisive spurt on Sunday night. But in a 65-56 win at the McKale Center, the Wildcats made it painful because it was prolonged and slow.
At one point, the Utes were ahead 47-45. They had weathered multiple pushes from Arizona. They had dealt with 14,530 fans who were loud and on their feet for the entire game. They limited Aaron Gordon, the Wildcats’ freshman star. They seemed destined to take the matchup to the final minutes.
And then Arizona scored 12 of the next 14 points to take a 57-49 lead when Nick Johnson drove baseline and dunked with a foul. What happened?
"I think we tried to do things that we haven’t done all season," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "Guys were playing a little one-on-one. Dallin [Bachynski] took a shot he hadn’t taken all season. There was a little hero ball going on. Basketball is like karma. If you take bad shots, it will come back to get you."
Utah didn’t quit at that point. But it was obvious the Utes weren’t going to climb out of that hole. Offensively, Krystkowiak’s team picked a bad time to take bad shots, rush possessions and do things that were generally not in their character.
Defensively, Utah was still good and still sound. But the Utes clearly tired physically down the stretch, and it showed when they tried to rebound the ball. Gordon shot 3-for-13 from the field but grabbed 12 rebounds to go with his 10 points. With tired legs, the Utes couldn’t stay in front of Johnson when it counted, and the junior finished with 22 points.
"They had a lot of big guys they were subbing in and out, and it had an effect on us," Utah guard Delon Wright said. "It was hard to rebound against all of that size out there. We didn’t take care of the ball when we needed, and we paid for it."
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