The Arizona Wildcats (18-8, 9-4) won a tight game at home against a less-than stellar Utah Utes (5-20, 2-11) team today. The game was much closer than the 70-61 score might indicate. Despite the fact that the Wildcats have played themselves back into the race for the Pac-12 title and an NCAA Tournament bid, they struggled against Utah’s zone defense today for most of the game. The Utes have been playing better over the course of the season and they definitely gave Arizona all they could handle today. The Cats are blessed to be cursed. This is a blessed program with a tradition of winning and is coming off a very good run last year in the NCAA Tournament. This blessing can also be a curse because despite relying very heavily on three freshmen (G Nick Johnson, G Josiah Turner, and F Angelo Chol), they always get opposing teams’ best shot. Teams realize that beating the Wildcats will boost their programs and help them reach their goals. Today was no exception.
The Utes dominated the majority of the first half by hitting shots from all over the floor and stifling Arizona’s offense with their 2-3 zone. The key to the Ute’s success was their ability to play as a team on both ends of the court. C Jason Washburn had the game of his life by scoring many points in the paint and dishing out to F Dijon Farr, F Cedric Martin and G Kareem Storey. These three practically couldn’t miss throughout the first half.
The Arizona guards were the story of this game and enabled the Cats to make a huge comeback to win and get their first home sweep in conference play. G Kyle Fogg came off the bench after a minor rules violation but hit a couple big shots in the first half to keep the game from getting away from the Wildcats. Johnson is officially out of his slump; he hit several clutch shots and free-throws down the stretch and was the leading scorer for the Wildcats today. G Brandon Lavender also came up clutch and hit 4-5 from beyond the arc and truly kept the Cats in the game late. Chol didn’t provide much on the offensive end today but he clogged up the lane on the defensive end and kept the Utes from completely taking over in the paint while F Jesse Perry and F Solomon Hill got breaks.
With today’s victory, the Wildcats are on a four game win streak and are right in the thick of the Pac-12 race. Despite F Kevin Parrom being out for the season with a broken foot and G Jordin Mayes being out with a bone bruise, the Cats pulled out the home sweep of the Rocky Mountain teams (Colorado, Utah). Every game is crucial with such a tight race in the Pac-12. The Wildcats will need to rest-up and get ready for two tough tests on the road against the Washington schools this week. This program is blessed to be cursed with the name across their jerseys. Every team wants a piece of the Wildcats and they will go to great lengths to beat Arizona. The Cats will have to take every team’s best shot down the stretch, but could end up on the top of the Pac-12 when all is said and done.