Arizona beat Utah on Saturday night, clinching a share of the Pac-12 Championship. Read on to find out more about the win, including who the co-players of the game were, what the key moments were, and more.
Arizona pulled away early and stayed ahead for the rest of the night, beating Colorado 82-54. Here’s a closer look at what happened:
Arizona Player of the Game:
Kaleb Tarczewski – The center was great on the road all weekend and finished with a stellar performance against the Utes. Tarczewski finished with a team-high 13 points, while grabbing six rebounds on the night. Even with all of the points, the big man was only three from four from the field and got the rest of his points at the free throw line.
Gabe York – While he had a quiet first half, the shooting guard was the key player in the win. After he got his own rebound on the free throw and put it back in for the lead, Utah did not score again. York finished with 12 points, four rebounds, and two blocks, as he was critical down the stretch for the Wildcats.
Arizona jumped out to an early lead, using a 9-0 run to take a 17-8 lead on Stanley Johnson’s. Utah answered with a 6-0 run of their own and got right back into the game. Both teams traded baskets with the Runnin’ Utes jumping ahead on a Dallin Bachynski lay in with just under three minutes left in the first half.
It may not have meant a lot at the time, but Elliott Pitts got fouled with one second left in the first half and hit two free throws. The two points put the Wildcats ahead 29-28 heading into the locker room.
One of the turning points in the night was early in the second half when Kaleb Tarczewski was whistled for a contact technical foul after clipping Bachynski with an elbow. Delon Wright hit two free throws and Jordan Loveridge made a jumper in the lane to give Utah a four-point lead and some momentum in the game.
Utah and Arizona both traded buckets, but none seemed bigger than a Brandon Taylor three pointer with eight minutes left in the game. The bucket put the Utes up 47-41 and gave them all of the momentum in the game. Arizona came down and had Gabe York swish a three of his own. On the next possession, Rondae Jefferson got a dunk in transition to cut the lead to just one.
Just two plays later, Tarczewski put a spin move on Utah freshman Jakob Poeltl for a dunk and the foul. He missed the free throw, but pulled the Wildcats to within one.
With just over four minutes left in regulation, Brandon Ashley got a jumper at the top of the key to give the Wildcats a 53-51 lead. On the next trip down the court, Isaiah Wright was fouled when shooting a three. He made all of them to take back the lead. Arizona followed it up with T.J. McConnell finding Hollis-Jefferson for a dunk and the lead switched again.
With just under two minutes in the game, Arizona led by one, but the Wildcats missed several close shots at the rim and allowed Utah to grab the board. Brandon Taylor came down the court and hit a three right in front of Stanley Johnson to take a two point lead.
York answered in a big way, getting fouled and making the first free throw. He missed the second free throw, but grabbed his own rebound and put it in for a basket to take the lead. That play began an 8-0 Arizona run to end the game as the Wildcats won 63-57.
Stat of the Night:
26-15 - After losing the rebounding battle 20-18 in the first half, Arizona battled back and outrebounded Utah 26-15 in the second half. Stanley Johnson grabbed six rebounds and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added seven of his own in the second half alone. It was a great effort from the Wildcats out of the locker room.
Arizona played awful for a majority of the game, but was able to pull it together for just long enough down the stretch to win. Stanley Johnson didn't play well. T.J. McConnell wasn't particularly spectacular either, but in the end, the Wildcats proved why they are the Pac-12 Champions, winning at the toughest venue in the Pac-12 besides McKale Center.
It is never easy to win on the road and the trip may be the toughest in the conference for Arizona. The Wildcats won on the road in what was probably the toughest game of the season and made a statement that they will be a force to be reckoned with now that March has rolled around.
When you think about how much it looked like Arizona wanted the win more than Utah during the game, you only need to look at one stat: second chance points. The Wildcats had 16 points off offensive rebounds and held Utah to just six.
The effort was there for Arizona, even if the execution wasn't at times. Utah missed some opportunities to put the Wildcats away and they found a way to climb back in it and win. That is what great teams do in March and this was the first example of what Arizona is capable of.
Sean Miller Quotable:
“To be able to win in this type of atmosphere, this game, against this team, as good as Utah is, however you do it, I think you feel good about it,’’ said Miller.
“We huddled up,’’ McConnell said. “And we said, ‘We’ve been here before.’?”