GAME NOTES: The third-ranked Arizona Wildcats put their perfect record on the line once more, as they entertain the Utah Runnin' Utes in a Pac-12 Conference affair on Saturday afternoon.
Utah is 8-5 on the season, and the team is coming off a 55-54 overtime loss at Arizona State in its league lidlifter on Wednesday night. Overall, the Utes have dropped three of their last five, that coming after the team had won two in a row and five of its previous six. Utah has performed well at home this season (7-2), but has lost three of its four road games.
Arizona is fortunate to still be one of the few undefeated teams left at the Division I level, as the team was taken to task in Thursday's Pac-12 opener against visiting Colorado, the Wildcats surviving in a 92-83 overtime battle. With the win, UA improved to 13-0, which includes an 8-0 mark in Tucson. Following this clash, the 'Cats will head out on the road for three straight, starting with next week's trip to the state of Oregon to face its two conference representatives.
Utah owns a 28-23 lead in the all-time series with Arizona, but the Wildcats have won each of the last five meetings.
Utah has been rock solid on defense this season, allowing just 57.0 ppg on typical shooting efforts of only .354 overall, .301 from 3-point range, and .677 from the foul line. Offensively, the team is putting up 68.2 ppg as Jarred DuBois (13.3 ppg, 3.9 apg), Jordan Loveridge (12.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Jason Washburn (9.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 24 blocks) handle the bulk of the scoring. Overall, the Utes have done a decent job in knocking down 46.3 percent of their total shots, which includes a 36.7 percent showing from beyond the arc. Neither team shot the ball well, but Arizona State came up with some timely stops and made the most of its opportunities in the extra session to stake its claim to a one-point win earlier this week. Washburn notched a monster double- double with 19 points and 18 rebounds for the Utes, who also got a dozen points from DuBois and a near double-double from Loveridge (nine points, 11 boards). As a team, Utah shot just 34.5 percent from the field, missing eight of its 11 long-range tries along the way.
It's certainly not surprising to see Arizona getting it done at both ends of the court this season, as the team averages 77.8 ppg while permitting just 61.0 ppg. Foes are shooting below 40 percent from the floor (.396), and the Wildcats typically dominate the glass to the tune of a +10.2 rebounding margin. At 14.2 ppg, Mark Lyons is the team's leading scorer, but he also serves as its primary playmaker with 40 assists. Solomon Hill (12.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Nick Johnson (12.6 ppg) and Kevin Parrom (9.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg) have all been productive players as well. Parrom scored five of his 16 points in the overtime period against Colorado, while Lyons led all scorers with 24 points thanks to a perfect 10-of-10 night at the foul line. Hill tallied 15 points and eight rebounds, Johnson tacked on 12 points, and Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett finished with 10 points apiece. Arizona was fortunate in that it went 28-of-36 from the stripe, compared to 17-of-29 for the Buffaloes.
Expect the Wildcats to play with purpose as they show the hometown faithful that the game against Colorado was certainly the exception, and not the norm now that league play has begun.