With a chance to pull back-to-back upsets on the road, the University of Utah men’s basketball team (13-8 overall, 5-5 Pac-12) came up short in the final seconds against No. 11 Arizona (18-4 overall, 8-1 Pac-12) on Saturday. With seven seconds left in the game, Justin Bibbins hit a 3-pointer and brought the Runnin’ Utes within one point of tying the game. But with one second left on the clock, Donnie Tillman missed the potential game winning layup as Utah lost 74-73.
“We’re mad about this one. We should’ve had this one,” said forward David Collette on ESPN 700. “It was right there in our hands.”
Sedrick Barefield had a game-high 26 points after shooting 8-of-12 from the field and 8-for-8 at the charity stripe. This was his second game in a row where he was Utah’s leading scorer.
Arizona shot 64.4 percent from the field for the game, and it caught Utah off guard right from the strike. During the first six minutes of the game, the Wildcats went 6-of-6 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the free throw line to take an 11-point advantage, 16-5. For about four minutes, the Runnin’ Utes were scoreless from the field, but things picked up for Utah as it went on a 9-0 run to cut into the Wildcats’ lead.
During that run, Tyler Rawson hit a 3-pointer that was followed with a steal by Collette who took it to the hoop for a layup, forcing Arizona to call a timeout. Barefield came out of the break and dropped four points to keep Utah hanging with the ‘Cats.
To finish the first half stretch, the Runnin’ Utes came within three points of tying the contest, but the Wildcats hit four buckets to take a 43-33 halftime lead.
Utah spent most of the second half working to cut its deficit to single digits, and once it did that, it was fighting to take the lead.
Barefield found Jayce Johnson who threw it down for a dunk to bring the Utes within seven points with 10:42 to play. But Dusan Ristic immediately put the Wildcats back on top with a 3-pointer. Bibbins shot back-to-back pairs of free throws to bring Utah again within seven points, igniting a 14-2 run.
“[I’m] really proud of our guys for doing that [run],” said associate head coach Tommy Connor on ESPN 700. “We made an adjustment, started getting a little more aggressive in some pick-and-roll stuff. I thought that was good.”
During the run, Parker Van Dyke drilled one from downtown and Barefield hit two free throws to give Utah its first lead of the night, 66-65. Both teams went on to score a bucket before Ristic hit back-to-back buckets to put Arizona up, 72-68.
Collette was called for a foul with one minute to play, sending Ristic to the line. He hit both shots to put the Wildcats up by four points. Despite Bibbins’ late 3-pointer and getting the ball back in Utah’s hands after Allonzo Trier fouled out, the Utes couldn’t get the job done.
“We need rest. We need some time,” Connor said on ESPN 700. “But we’re proud of our guys. They battled their butt off. We got another tough road game, but we’re going to get ready for that and go compete and try to win that one on the road.”
The Runnin’ Utes will continue conference action on the road on Friday, Feb. 2, against Colorado at 7 p.m.