Arizona Wildcats begin Pac-12 tournament play with Utah
After clinching a bye from Wednesday’s first-round games, the No. 1-seeded Wildcats will play No. 8 seeded Utah today in their opening round Pac-12 tournament game.
It will be the third time this season that the two schools have played, and the first time that they’ve ever met in the conference tournament.
In last year’s Pac-12 tournament, Utah made it to the semi-finals before finally losing to the eventual tournament champion, Oregon 64-45.
Utah got to the second round of this year’s tournament by beating the No. 9-seeded Washington Huskies in the first round.
Tip-off will be at noon on the Pac-12 Networks.
Last time they played
The last time Arizona played Utah was on Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City. The Wildcats won the game 67-63 in overtime.
It wasn’t pretty for the then-No. 4 Wildcats. Arizona held a nine-point lead at the half, but then only scored 21 points in the second half.
A strong shooting performance from Arizona guard Gabe York helped carry the Wildcats to the victory.
The Utes held Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon to one of his worst games on the season.
Gordon fouled out before the end of regulation, and only contributed three points and three rebounds.
Utah didn’t have just one standout player, but instead had contributions from most of its starters and reserves.
Where Arizona struggled was with its lack of toughness. In its first meeting with the Utes on Jan. 26, Arizona used its size and was too physical for the less talented Utah team. By the end of the game, the Utes were too tired to compete and ended up losing 65-56 in regulation.
Utah’s offense is no joke. Heading into the Pac-12 tournament, the Utes averaged 77.2 points per game, which is the 41st most in the country. In doing so, they shot with .497 percent accuracy, the fifth highest in the country.
It doesn’t have much size down in the post, so it won’t get many second-chance opportunities, but it is an efficient offense in the half-court.
Who to watch out for
While Utah has an efficient offense, it has one player that is above the rest. Junior Delon Wright was named to the Pac-12 first team All-Conference squad at the end of the season. The junior college transfer averaged 16.1 points per game during the regular season to go along with an average of 6.9 rebounds. He is Utah’s go-to player and has rarely had a bad game.
Utah’s 124-51 victory over St. Katherine on Dec. 28 was the only game this season where Wright scored fewer than 10 points.
Since coming to Utah, Wright has emerged as a possible first-round draft pick either this year or next.
Keys to the game
For Arizona, it’s sticking to what it does best, which is to outrun the opposing team. It got away from that against Utah in its previous game, and it hurt them.
For Utah, it needed another strong performance from someone other than Wright. If it can get key contributions from multiple scorers, than it could outscore the more talented Arizona team who has struggled on offense as of late.
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella