Utah Men’s Basketball Puts Up Historic Win Against No. 4 Arizona


Xiangyao Tang

University of Utah men’s basketball guard Gabe Madsen plays against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday March 5, 2022. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Max Lepore, Sports Writer


On Dec. 1, Utah men’s basketball faced a tough matchup against their conference rivals, nationally ranked No. 4 Arizona Wildcats. At home in the Hunstman Center, the Runnin’ Utes won in dominating fashion, destroying the Wildcats with a final score of 81-66.

This was head coach Craig Smith’s first victory against an AP-ranked opponent, and the program’s first since 2019. Thursday night marked probably the biggest win of Smith’s career, as the underdog Utes put together a performance that surprised many.

The Utes dominated right off the bat against Arizona, earning a 12-7 lead that they managed to build into a 22-16 lead with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half. The Runnin’ Utes then managed to put together a 6-0 run against Arizona, building their lead to 28-16 and causing the Wildcats to call a timeout right around the six-minute mark.

Junior Ben Carlson converted a dominant dunk to fire up the Huntsman, while freshman Keba Keita managed to earn an impressive block off a shot attempt by Arizona’s Courtney Ramey. Utah managed to catch fire in the final five minutes of the first half, as they shot 6-of-9 from the field and built a dominant 42-25 lead going into halftime. 

The No. 4 ranked Wildcats came out for the second half with much more urgency. They put together an 18-7 run to tighten the Utes’ lead to just 49-43. Instead of crumbling under pressure, though, the Runnin’ Utes countered the run with an impressive 21-7 run, building a 20-point 70-50 lead with 7:34 left in the game.

Arizona put together a 14-3 run to tighten the lead to just 73-64, but junior Rollie Worster helped Utah to respond. He managed to score four of the Utes’ final eight points, putting the Wildcats away once and for all with a final score of 81-66.

The Utes’ dominant underdog victory was full of standouts. Senior Branden Carlson hit 5-of-9 from three, a new career-high that helped him earn 22 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks for the team. Worster also worked hard, with a team-high 37 minutes and an impressive statline of 12 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists. It was his first career double-double, and he was just one assist from a triple-double. Juniors Gabe Madsen and Ben Carlson both gave the Utes 11 points, while Keita put together 7 points along with 11 rebounds. Fifth-year senior Marco Anthony also put together 6 points and 9 rebounds for the Utes.

The Runnin’ Utes as a team put together historical numbers to go along with their impressive individual performances. The score of 42-25 was the largest Utah halftime lead against a top-5 AP-ranked opponent since the 1996-97 season. Additionally, Utah was winless against ranked opponents under Coach Smith, with a record of 0-6 going into Thursday night’s game. The victory was also Utah’s first against a top-5 nationally ranked opponent since defeating No. 1 Alabama all the way back in 2002. Facing teams that were ranked No. 4 in the AP poll, Utah is now 2-4 all-time with their only other win coming back in 1964 on New Year’s Day against Cincinnati. Finally, this victory marked Utah’s first win against an AP-ranked opponent in their home stadium since they beat No. 25 ranked USC back in January 2017.

Looking Ahead

Hoping to build their momentum from this impressive victory, the Runnin’ Utes will travel to Pullman to face off against Pac-12 rival Washington State Cougars on Sunday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m MT.


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