The Wildcats won their second game in a row and moved to 3-1 in Pac-12 play after a decisive victory over Utah
TUCSON, Ariz. — Caleb Love got hot at the right time, giving Arizona a big cushion in what had been a close game.
The natural inclination for a scorer like Love would be to keep shooting. Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd pumped the brakes.
Love scored 15 of his 23 points during a decisive second-half stretch, Keshad Johnson added 20 points and No. 10 Arizona ran away from Utah for a 92-73 win on Saturday night.
“Caleb, as we know, can get hot and he went on a heater,” Lloyd said. “And then I just told him, ‘Hey, take a breath. You kind of got us a little separation, now let us bring it home.’”
Arizona (12-3, 3-1 Pac-12) shot well all night, but carelessness with the ball allowed Utah to keep it close. Once the second half started, the Wildcats took control with a massive run.
Love triggered the Wildcats’ second-half dominance, scoring 15 points in the opening 11 minutes as the Wildcats stretched the lead to 17.
Arizona dominated the nation’s second-tallest team inside, grabbing 18 more rebounds and outscoring the Utes 50-26 in the paint while shooting 60% from the floor.
“(We) kept pounding the ball inside and let the offense do the talking,” said Arizona forward Pelle Larsson, who had 14 points to eclipse 1,000 in his career on the same night as teammate Omar Ballo. “We just moved the ball it little bit more and got easy looks.”
The Utes (11-2, 2-2) kept Arizona within reach in the first half by hitting seven 3-pointers, but cooled off and had a second straight shaky defensive performance to remain winless at McKale Center since 1986.
Gabe Madsen had 18 points for Utah, which shot 3 of 17 from 3 in the second half.
“They’re a very good offensive team,” Utah coach Craig Smith said. “They average 93 points for a reason. They’ve got a lot of talent all over the place.”
The Utes had an eight-game winning streak end at Arizona State on Thursday by turning it over 15 times while giving up 12 3-pointers in the 82-70 loss.
The Utes had a much better offensive flow in the first half against Arizona and kept the Wildcats in reach by going 7 for 18 from 3-point range. Madsen hit four 3s and had 12 points by halftime.
Arizona leaned on Johnson early in the first half and Kylan Boswell late. They combined for 21 points and the Wildcats hit 16 of 26 shots to lead 42-39 at halftime despite nine turnovers.
Arizona took over early in the second half, bringing the crowd to its feet with a 15-2 run. Love had a tomahawk dunk after nearly losing the ball, followed with a long 3. Jaden Bradley capped the run with a layup after stealing the inbounds pass.
Utah had a scoreless stretch of more than four minutes during Arizona’s run, then Love hit consecutive 3-pointers and a step-back jumper to stretch Arizona’s lead to 69-52.
“Their fans do a great job of just willing them, giving them energy,” Smith said. “It’s hard. We tried to use every timeout to just try to stem the tide.”
Utah: The Utes have plenty of length and are usually an efficient offensive team. Two lackluster losses in the desert showed they still have plenty of work to do on offense.
Arizona: The Wildcats have proven to be tough to stop once they get rolling, particularly at McKale Center. They certainly did against Utah, blowing open a close game by hitting 22 of 37 shots in the second half.
Utah: Hosts UCLA on Thursday.
Arizona: Plays at Southern California on Wednesday.
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2024-01-07 05:57:20 , KPNX – News