Utes are formidable foe at home
The No. 4-ranked Arizona men’s basketball team will attempt to recover in Salt Lake City when the Wildcats take on Utah on Wednesday evening at the Huntsman Center.
Head coach Sean Miller is expecting the matchup to be a challenging one, especially considering Arizona is fresh off a loss against ASU and struggling to forge a consistent offensive identity.
“When we go to Utah, is it going to be hard? No question,” Miller said. “[Utah head coach] Larry Krystkowiak and his staff have really done a great job, especially when you consider where their program was a couple years ago. It’s amazing.”
The Utes were 6-25 in 2011-12 and 15-18 in 2012-13. This is Krystkowiak’s third season.
Utah has won 16 of its 17 home games this year and has beaten opponents by an average of 23 points per contest at Huntsman this season.
While Utah leads the all-time series with Arizona 28-26, the Wildcats have claimed eight straight victories over the Utes and 11 of the past 12 decisions. Utah is ranked fifth in shooting with 49.9 percent accuracy from the field. Junior guard Delon Wright leads the Pac-12 and ranks 13th in the nation with a 59.2 field goal percentage.
“Utah’s a great team,” starting center Kaleb Tarczewski said. “We sort of struggled against them initially last time. They run quite a few defenses, but we’ll be a little more prepared for it this time. Obviously, we are going to be going into a pretty hostile environment.”
In the Wildcats’ last contest with the Utes, Arizona overcame a double-digit deficit in the first half to defeat Utah 65-56. The deciding factor was the Wildcats’ ability to efficiently clear the offensive glass and their stellar defense. The Wildcats had 11 more offensive rebounds than the Utes despite being limited to 3-for-14 (21.4 percent) shooting from beyond the perimeter and 40 percent overall.
Miller said a couple of possessions “here or there” have cost Utes wins.
“They’re just not a competitive team; there’s not a lot of difference between Utah and really any team in our conference,” Miller said. “We know we’re going to be in for a heck of a game.”
Who to watch out for:
Jordan Loveridge — sophomore forward — #26
— Averaging 15.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
Loveridge currently ranks ninth in the conference in rebounding, and 12th in scoring and has posted six double-doubles this year. Utah is 12-3 this season when Loveridge makes five or more field goals.
Last time against Arizona, Loveridge totaled 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting, five rebounds, a steal and an assist.
Delon Wright — junior guard — #55
— Averaging 16.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
In Utah’s last matchup against the Wildcats, Wright scored 19 points and compiled six boards, four assists, three steals and a block. However, Arizona did a good job holding him to 5-for-12 shooting from the floor and forcing him to convert free throw attempts.
Wright leads the league in steals with 3.1 per contest and is ranked sixth in scoring and blocks (33).
Prediction: No. 4 Arizona hangs on to defeat Utah 72-67
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17