Arizona blows out Utah as rebuilding Utes take a step back following two-game winning streak

Utah stored it aggressive towards Arizona the primary time round. Thursday evening proved to be the other.

Utah heart Branden Carlson, left, and Arizona ahead Azuolas Tubelis vie for a rebound throughout the first half of an NCAA faculty basketball recreation Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Salt Lake Metropolis. (AP Picture/Rick Bowmer)

Salt Lake Metropolis • Craig Smith started this week by speaking in regards to the idea of malleability. All year long, he argued, groups can change form, getting higher or getting worse. One month, a crew may be among the many greatest within the nation and subsequent it’d play like a convention bottom-dweller.

His level was Utah could also be an 11-16 crew, and 4-13 within the Pac-12, however just lately it was enjoying above its report. After two street wins, he thought this model of Utah might be aggressive towards No. 2 ranked Arizona.

However the idea of malleability works in each methods. Utah discovered that on Thursday evening in a 97-77 loss to Arizona. As a substitute of getting nearer to beating one of many nation’s greatest, it discovered itself additional away with a deficit that ballooned shortly and by no means improved.

“It was a tricky evening for us,” Smith mentioned. “I believed we regarded tentative at instances. We did some good issues, however clearly not sufficient… I believed they suffocated us at instances.”

The final time Utah met Arizona, it went down by solely three factors on the half and misplaced by 18. The ultimate consequence was by no means doubtful, nevertheless it was extra aggressive than most predicted. Thursday was nearer to the other.

Arizona used the primary half to construct a 20-point lead as Utah crumbled underneath a deluge of measurement and taking pictures. Kerr Kriisa, Arizona’s sophomore guard, hit seven first-half three-pointers en path to 21 factors. The entrance court docket mixture of Azuikas Tubelis and Christian Koloko mixed for 34 factors.

If there was a second that embodied the sport, it was the final 10 seconds of the primary half. Utah guard Gabe Madsen hit a three-point with 5 seconds remaining. However earlier than the Utes may file into the locker room, Kriisa took two dribbles and knocked down a half-court shot. Utah, even when it had flashes of competitiveness, regarded outplayed and outmatched in each side of the sport.

“That’s only a good crew,” Madsen mentioned. “Kriisa went on just a little run there by himself. That’s going to occur towards a great crew. However clearly there’s a lot we may do higher.”

There have been some brilliant spots for Utah. Madsen had 15 factors and David Jenkins added 14. Branden Carlson, who was coping with an ankle harm coming into the week, was efficient to begin the sport and completed 4-12 from the sphere and 1-for-4 from three-point vary.

However there’s little query this model of Utah was not the one Smith hoped to see, or had seen in Utah’s back-to-back wins towards Stanford and Cal final week.

Marco Anthony, who was key in breaking Utah’s almost year-long street dropping streak, had extra missed free throws than made. He mustered solely two factors in 24 minutes. The crew principally adopted his lead in unforced errors — lacking seven free throws and turning the ball over 14 instances. In opposition to most groups that wouldn’t work, however towards Arizona it means the deficit will flirt with 30.

Arizona leads the nation in tempo of play and, for essentially the most half, every turnover led to a quick break dunk of some sort. It’s why the Wildcats went on a 23-2 run to finish the primary half — effecitvely ending the sport —and all 5 starters have been in double-figures.

“We had some catastrophic turnovers,” Smith mentioned. “After they get out in transition, their spurtability is unbelievable. It’s just like the Nineteen Eighties Lakers.’

Finally, if Thursday was a check of crew’s malleability — like Smith talked about — it confirmed Utah has a methods to go. And Arizona — a program ranked within the high three in KenPom, the NET rankings and the AP Ballot — is the one rising.

“They received all of it. You possibly can see their athleticism up and down the lineup. That’s the place we need to go,” Smith mentioned. “However we clearly received a methods to go.”

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