Las Vegas • Utah couldn’t afford this.
Not at the worst time. Not against arguably the best team in the country. And certainly not on a national stage.
But the Utes’ worst fears became a reality on Thursday afternoon. Against Arizona — in a game the Utes needed to play perfect to win — their best three players were essentially no-shows.
You need a good reason for the Wildcats’ 71-39 win over Utah at MGM Grand Arena? Look no further than Jordan Loveridge, Delon Wright and Brandon Taylor. They are the Utes’ three leading scorers and they combined for seven points.
"The better team definitely won," Loveridge said. "You have to give credit to their defense all the way around. Every shot we got up was contested, they were prepared for what we were going to do, and they made it hard on us. Obviously, our struggles put a strain on the offense. They played well and they knew what we were going to do."
The three didn’t score in the first half. They didn’t register their first point until Loveridge was fouled and made two free throws with 14 minutes remaining. Wright’s driving lanes were shut off, causing him to go 1 for 8 from the field.
Loveridge had Aaron Gordon all over him, which meant asking too much of him offensively was probably unrealistic. Taylor had Gabe York and Nick Johnson attached to him, taking away his looks from 3-point range.
Without those three, Utah’s offense had no chance. Only Princeton Onwas looked comfortable. Dallin Bachynski scored nine points, but the Utes never had much continuity.
"It was a team effort," Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell said. "When you have a guy like Delon Wright coming off the pick-and-roll, you have to worry about him first and go from there. We did a good job of containing him and containing the big men as well."
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