Utah (21-10) vs. (4) Arizona (28-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 13, 3 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: MGM Grand Garden Arena (16,800) -- Las Vegas, Nevada.
Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: Utah 18-2, Arizona 18-0. Away Record:
Utah 2-8, Arizona 8-3. Neutral Record: Utah 1-0, Arizona 2-0. Conference
Record: Utah 9-9, Arizona 15-3. Series Record: Utah leads, 28-27.
GAME NOTES: The top-seeded Arizona Wildcats will begin their quest for the
Pac-12 Conference Tournament title when they open up quarterfinal-round action
against the eight-seeded Utah Utes.
The Wildcats earned the top seed in this tournament by easily winning the
regular-season title. They finished 15-3 in conference play, a full three
games ahead of second-place finisher UCLA. Arizona also dominated outside of
the conference, ending the regular season at 28-3 overall and ranked fourth in
the AP Top-25. They are seeking their first conference crown since 2002, after
falling short in the semifinals or later in each of the last three seasons.
In the first round, Utah held off Washington to notch a 67-63 victory. The win
was just the third in nine tries on the road or a neutral court for the Utes,
who owe their 21-win campaign to their stunning 18-2 mark at home.
Although Utah was swept in the season series by Arizona, the Utes showed how
dangerous they are at home in the most recent clash, nearly pulling off the
upset before falling in overtime, 67-63. Utah still owns a slight edge in the
all-time series (28-27), with the winner this time moving on to face the
victor between California and Colorado in the semifinals.
Delon Wright scored 15 points and Jordan Loveridge just missed a double-double
(13 points, nine rebounds) in the opening round against Washington. After
getting out to a 10-point lead at halftime and 58-53 with 3:36 to play, the
Utes let the Huskies back in the game, falling behind 60-59 with just over a
minute remaining. However, Dakarai Tucker nailed a big 3-pointer down the
stretch, and Brandon Taylor iced the game with two free throws with 15 ticks
left on the clock.
Although it only connected on 44.9 percent from the field on Wednesday, Utah
rarely ever has an off night in terms of shooting the ball. The Utes are
sinking the fourth-best percentage from the field in the country (.496),
leading to a respectable 76.8 ppg scoring average. Making the extra pass on
offensive possessions is the key, as the Utes rank 18th in assists (15.7 apg).
Versatile swingman Delon Wright (16.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.6 spg) stuffs
the stat sheet and earned All-Pac-12 First-Team honors for his work. In
support, Jordan Loveridge (15.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is a solid forward who can
spread the floor.
With little to play for in the final game of the season, Arizona's 64-57 loss
to Oregon was less of a blow than it could have been. The Wildcats were the
better team inside, outscoring the Ducks 32-20 in the paint, but they were
outscored 30-6 from 3-point range, a margin that clearly proved detrimental.
Sean Miller, who was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, mentors one of the
best defensive teams in the country this season. Arizona is among the top-10
teams in scoring defense (58.7 ppg), assists against (9.2 apg) and opponent
field goal percentage (.385). With such dominant play at that end, the
Wildcats have not had to be as potent offensively, as they net just 73.5 ppg.
Nick Johnson (16.1 ppg) and Aaron Gordon (12.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg) joined their
coach in earning postseason hardware, with Johnson named the Pac-12 Player of
the Year, and Gordon laying claim to the award for the top freshman. T.J.
McConnell (8.3 ppg, 5.5 apg) has run the point well after transferring in from
Duquesne. The team is still trying to find a consistent replacement for
Brandon Ashley (11.5 ppg), but Kaleb Tarczewski (10.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg) has made
strides in attempting to do so.
Utah may have won in the first round, but it certainly didn't do so in
convincing fashion. The Utes will have an even tougher time limiting mistakes
against the defensive-minded Wildcats.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona 78, Utah 68
03/13 10:59:30 ET
Powered by The Sports Network.