Preview: Arizona at Utah
Arizona remains poised to receive a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the fourth-ranked Wildcats definitely are vulnerable heading into Wednesdayâs game at Utah. The Wildcats have dropped two of their last four games since losing starting forward Brandon Ashley to a season-ending foot injury on Feb. 1, and star guard Nick Johnsonâs shooting slump has coincided with Ashleyâs absence. Johnson is shooting 23 percent from the field over the last four games, including 2-of-24 from 3-point range.
While Arizona holds a one-game lead over UCLA in the Pac-12, Utah is in a seventh-place tie with Washington and looking to strengthen its NCAA Tournament chances. âFor us, itâs like the postseason is kind of starting right now,â Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak told the Deseret News. âYou need to just be dialed in and get in that mind set.â The Utes lost 65-56 at Arizona on Jan. 26, but theyâre eager for the rematch at home, where theyâve won 19 of their last 21 games dating back to last season.
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ABOUT ARIZONA (23-2, 10-2 Pac-12): Look for more reserves to get involved against Utah after coach Sean Miller relied heavily on his starters in last Fridayâs 69-66 double-overtime loss at Arizona State. âFor us to win the most games this year, I think our biggest upside lies in trusting Jordin Mayes, Elliott Pitts, Gabe York a little bit more, throwing Matt Korcheck in there and taking some minutes away from the players that are playing,â Miller told reporters. Freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has stepped up with Ashley out, averaging 13 points and 7.7 rebounds over the last three games.
ABOUT UTAH (17-8, 6-7): The Utes are looking to bounce back from an 80-66 loss at UCLA on Saturday, when starters Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker were held to a combined 20 points and seven rebounds. Guard Delon Wright, who scored a team-high 19 points in last monthâs loss to the Wildcats, ranks among the top 15 nationally in field-goal percentage (59.7) and steals (2.8). Loveridge averages a team-high 7.6 rebounds for the Utes, who were outrebounded 40-29 by the Wildcats last month.
1. Utah is shooting 76.1 percent from the foul line in Pac-12 play, while Arizona ranks last in the conference at 64.1 percent.
2. Johnson is averaging 12.4 points in five career games against Utah after scoring 22 in last monthâs win.
3. Arizona leads the Pac-12 with a rebounding margin of plus-6.2 in league play.
PREDICTION: Arizona 81, Utah 77