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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Recap: Arizona wins clash of the titans, clinches share of Pac-12 title

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Arizona men’s basketball overcame tough conditions to beat No. 13 Utah 63-57 on the road and clinch a share of the Pac-12 championship.

The No. 7 Wildcats (26-3, 14-2) won their sixth game in a row, their 12th straight over the Utes and improved their road record to 8-3 despite trailing by as much as six in the second half.

“Our guys never really broke and I thought when they went up six points midway through the second half, that was a crucial time for us and we really responded,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller.

The Wildcats ended the game on an 8-0 run. The game featured 11 ties and 14 lead changes, and the Wildcats shot 33 percent from the field, while holding the Utes to 31 percent shooting.

“To find a way in a hostile environment against a team like Utah, it just shows how resilient we are,” said Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell.

Four Wildcats scored in double-figures, led by 13 from center Kaleb Tarczewski. Guard Gabe York scored four points in the first half and eight in the second and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 10 points, all in the second half.

“This is a big win for us in a hostile environment,” said Arizona guard Gabe York. ”We didn’t play our best basketball, but still got the win. Give credit to Utah because they’re a good basketball team, and obviously we will mostly likely see them in the Pac-12 tournament, so we gotta be ready for them.”

Miller said York is more well rounded now.

“Gabe made a number of big plays; he defended really well,” Miller said. “He’s really improved. He’s playing his best basketball of his career.”

Arizona went 17-for-51 from the field and Utah was 17-for-55 in a game that saw 46 fouls called and two Utes foul out.

“Playing Utah period and playing Utah here — it’s not easy to score,” Miller said. “They have great length, they’re well coached, they play hard, they’re physical, they have great depth. It’s not easy to score on them, you can see that tonight. The good thing for us is it was a struggle for them to score too.”

Only two Utes scored in double-figures, guard Delon Wright, with a game-high 17 and forward Jordan Loveridge, who had 10 points.

The Wildcats have now won four in a row on the road and six of their last seven since starting the season 2-2 on the road.

“You can really get down on yourself when the ball’s not going,” Miller said. “Our missed shots never really affected our defense, and I think that’s a sign that our team’s playing really special on the road.”

Forward Stanley Johnson scored 12 points, tied for second on the team, and grabbed 11 rebounds to earn a double-double, but did so on 3-for-19 shooting.

“It’s not good to see him go 3-for-19 in a game,” Miller said laughing. “He’ll learn from this game.”

The Wildcats made 27 of their 37 free throws, while the Utes went 16-for-21 from the line. The UA out-rebounded UU 44-35.

With two games to go, the Wildcats have a two-game lead over Utah (22-6, 12-4) and close out the season with California and Stanford at home.

“We don’t want to drop two at home and they win two and they tie it back up,” McConnell said. “We go on to the next game. It feels good but we go to forget about it.”

Utah fans started camping out on Thursday night after their win over ASU. Miller improved his record to 9-0 against Utah.

“I’m real disappointed,” Wright said. “We had a shot at a Pac-12 title.”

McConnell said playing in that atmosphere will help the Wildcats as the season ends.

“This is one of the best crowds I’ve played in since I’ve been in college,” McConnell said. “They’re a great team, and this obviously gives us experience down the road in the tournament.”

Miller said the Wildcats’ big game experience helped a lot, from non-conference games like Gonzaga, being a target on a road, to getting to the Elite Eight last year.

“All of that builds towards this, and let’s face it — last year does too,” Miller said. “We have a number of players that have been through this type of atmosphere, so I don’t believe that we’re as affected.”


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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