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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Utes fall to Arizona in battle of top-10 teams



In a game that was hyped up to be potentially one of the best games thus far in the college basketball season. It ended up being a familiar face doing familiar things. Arizona used the Wildcat-brand of tough play to out-hustle and out-muscle the Utes 69-51 in Tucson, Saturday.

“We just got pummeled on the glass,” Krystkowiak said. “We are going to have to take on a little different of a persona because that’s the definition of a physical team right there.”

Utah was led by guard Brandon Taylor, who finished with 12 points and four assists, and Jordan Loveridge, who registered 11 points of his own, but the Utes were unable to overcome a 40-19 rebounding deficit in this one.

Things could not have started better for Utah following the tip off. After Arizona gained control to start the game, Delon Wright stole the ball and flushed it home for a quick lead. The Utes quickly added a layup, a banked three-point make from Wright and another deep ball from Taylor, and found themselves up 10-2.

However, Wildcats point guard TJ McConnell responded in a big way, making contested shot after contested shot. McConnell hit two quick buckets to cut the lead, but that was just the beginning of his production for the floor general. If he wasn’t making buckets, McConnell was orchestrating the Arizona offense in a fashion that Utah fans are used to seeing from Wright.

“He did a hell of a job on his pick-and-roll,” Taylor said. “He just dealed whatever he wanted, he got the looks that he wanted … It’s tough for us to be in a game like that and let a player like that get whatever he wants.”

Behind McConnell, the Wildcats clawed their way back into the game and overtook the Utes for a 31-26 halftime lead. With the five point deficit Utah found itself in a position it hasn’t been in for quite some time.

In the second half, things didn’t get much better for Krystkowiak and company. After a Taylor three pointer cut the Arizona lead to 33-30 at the 18:09 mark, the Wildcats reeled off a 13-2 run that Utah simply couldn’t overcome.

Behind the big run was an even bigger impact made by the crowd, as the Wildcat faithful weren’t shy about boasting about its lead.

As the second half went along, the momentum disappeared from the Utah bench as Arizona looked like it had more will to win. According to Taylor though, that wasn’t the case.

“I always felt hope the whole game,” he said.

And with good reason, as Loveridge scored eight straight points for the Utes to bring the game within reason, forcing Sean Miller to use a timeout.

However, the comeback was to no avail as the Wildcats went on another run, this time 12-4, to finish off Utah late in the contest. The 18-point loss was the worst of the season for the Utes.

“That’s an elite team in our league,” Krystkowiak said. “It was an eye-opener for us and we’ll have our guys’ full attention on Monday.”

McConnell led the way shooting the ball for Arizona, scoring 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Freshman sensation Stanley Johnson used a strong second half to finish with 18 points and what seemed like an endless amount of hustle plays to put the Wildcats on top.

As both teams began to empty their benches and the ‘Zona Zoo chanted “overrated,” the pain of defeat began to settle in for the Utes. That said, this team will not let one game define a season and is looking forward to a Feb. 28 rematch.

“[Arizona’s] an elite program and to come in here is definitely not an easy task,” Taylor said. “We got them in February.”

Utah will look to rebound from this loss when it takes on Washington State on Jan. 21.

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