With a victory over Utah, the Wildcats were able to stay within a game of conference-leader Oregon and also ended a two-game losing streak in the process.
Utah was able to keep the game respectable and prevented UA from running away with the contest, but the Wildcats never really lost control of the ballgame. There were numerous positive signs to take note of from Sunday's affair, but it was far from a perfect game for Arizona.
Lyons tends to get into funks and it can set back the offense if he doesn't correct his mistakes. It would be completely unfair, however, to not point out that the Wildcats are a very dangerous squad when Lyons is on top of his game. The senior struggled shooting the ball from long range (1-for-9 from beyond the arc), but he was much more efficient when he drove to the basket.
When Lyons breaks down the defense and drives to the basket, the offense is much more effective than when he stands in three-point range and takes 25-foot jump-shots early in the shot clock. He may not always find success close to the basket, but UA performs better as a unit when he takes the ball to the rack. When Lyons stepped inside the three-point line against the Utes, he shot a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor.
Inserting Kevin Parrom into the starting lineup over freshman Brandon Ashley benefited both players. Parrom got off to a very slow start, but his play in the second half proved to be one of the biggest factors in Arizona's victory. His intensity picked up down the stretch and his quiet first half became a distant memory.
Ashley got off to a hot start and ended the contest with 10 points on a very efficient 4-for-5 shooting. He seemed to bring a lot of energy off the bench and could be vital in that capacity going forward. How long the lineup remains the same is to be determined, but the switch seemed to give both players a well needed charge and it's likely it stays the same for the upcoming game against Washington.
The Play of the freshmen
The trio of freshmen that saw the floor (Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett) combined to a shoot an impressive 10-for-14 from the floor on Sunday. All three received limited, but significant, playing time and each produced in a positive fashion.
Perhaps it was just a coincidence that all three put forth a solid outing in the same game, or maybe it's a sign of improvement. Either way, it's a good sign for the Wildcats that their freshmen looked more comfortable collectively on Sunday than at any other point previously during the season.
Arizona attempted 22 three-pointers, but didn't really rely on its long-range shooting. UA shot poorly as a team from three-point land, but made up for it by finding open shots closer to the basket.
The Wildcats shot 61.3 percent from two-point range and were successful – more often than not – when attacking the basket. Whether Utah played man-to-man defense or zone, UA was able to successfully break it down and the Wildcats' assertiveness on offense made up for their shaky outside shooting.
The poor long-range shooting is still a cause for a concern for Arizona, however. When the competition picks up in the postseason, the Wildcats are going to struggle against better defensive squads if they don't get their three-point shooting together.
Return of the defense
The Wildcats struggled defensively for two straight contests heading into the game against Utah. Arizona looked as if it was making it a point to pick up the intensity on defense as the Utes struggled to find open looks from anywhere other than three-point range.
Utah went 14-for-37 from inside the arc as opposed to 7-for-16 from beyond it, as it struggled to find open looks. UA made sure the Utes worked for every shot and its defense really disrupted Utah's offensive flow.