Utah saved it aggressive in opposition to Arizona the primary time round. Thursday night time proved to be the alternative.
Salt Lake Metropolis • Craig Smith started this week by speaking concerning the idea of malleability. All year long, he argued, groups can change form, getting higher or getting worse. One month, a workforce is likely to be among the many finest within the nation and subsequent it’d play like a convention bottom-dweller.
His level was Utah could also be an 11-16 workforce, and 4-13 within the Pac-12, however just lately it was taking part in above its file. After two street wins, he thought this model of Utah might be aggressive in opposition to No. 2 ranked Arizona.
However the idea of malleability works in each methods. Utah discovered that on Thursday night time in a 97-77 loss to Arizona. As a substitute of getting nearer to beating one of many nation’s finest, it discovered itself additional away with a deficit that ballooned rapidly and by no means improved.
“It was a tricky night time for us,” Smith mentioned. “I believed we regarded tentative at occasions. We did some good issues, however clearly not sufficient… I believed they suffocated us at occasions.”
The final time Utah met Arizona, it went down by solely three factors on the half and misplaced by 18. The ultimate outcome was by no means doubtful, however it was extra aggressive than most predicted. Thursday was nearer to the alternative.
Arizona used the primary half to construct a 20-point lead as Utah crumbled underneath a deluge of dimension and taking pictures. Kerr Kriisa, Arizona’s sophomore guard, hit seven first-half three-pointers en path to 21 factors. The entrance courtroom 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 might 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 aspect of the sport.
“That’s only a good workforce,” Madsen mentioned. “Kriisa went on a bit run there by himself. That’s going to occur in opposition to a very good workforce. However clearly there’s a lot we might do higher.”
There have been some shiny 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 start out 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 in opposition to Stanford and Cal final week.
Marco Anthony, who was key in breaking Utah’s practically year-long street shedding streak, had extra missed free throws than made. He mustered solely two factors in 24 minutes. The workforce principally adopted his lead in unforced errors — lacking seven free throws and turning the ball over 14 occasions. Towards most groups that wouldn’t work, however in opposition to Arizona it means the deficit will flirt with 30.
Arizona leads the nation in tempo of play and, for probably the most half, every turnover led to a quick break dunk of some form. 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 take a look at of workforce’s malleability — like Smith talked about — it confirmed Utah has a methods to go. And Arizona — a program ranked within the prime three in KenPom, the NET rankings and the AP Ballot — is the one rising.
“They acquired all of it. You possibly can see their athleticism up and down the lineup. That’s the place we wish to go,” Smith mentioned. “However we clearly acquired a methods to go.”