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Utes fall to Zona in Pac-12 road opener

UteZone breaks down the Utes' loss to Arizona in Tucson

The Utes began their first conference road trip of the season Thursday night as they faced the 17th ranked Arizona Wildcats in Tucson. Since joining the Pac 12 Utah has been unable to get a victory inside the McKale Memorial Center. After a great start it looked like the Utes just might have been able to walk away victorious, but their inability to rebound, shoot from outside and foul trouble would  prove enough of a road block in their quest. In the end the Utes would lose the fight, falling 66-56.

Collette Sparks a Quick Start

The Utes opened the game with a great game plan. In order to slow down the attacking offense of the Wildcats, Utah began the game in a basic 2-3 zone. By eliminating easy driving lanes Arizona was forced into a jump shooting team which leveled the playing field by taking away Arizona’s athletic advantage.The Wildcats struggled to find rhythm early on and only made three of eight shots while turning the ball over two times.

Meanwhile, behind the efforts of David Collette, Utah made seven of their first attempts from the field and jumped to an early 15-10 lead. Collette showed great poise, getting set deep in the paint and making himself an easy target. With the ball, Collette used patience to react to the defense and with great footwork scored with solid back-to-the-basket moves.

Collette also showed some ball handling skills. After Arizona turned the ball over, Collette gathered the ball and kept it himself, covering 3/4 of the court, shaking off a defender and laying the ball in at the front of the rim. Collette contributed six points, two rebounds and an assist before he was forced to the bench with his second foul. That is the exact moment where Utah lost their composure and allowed Arizona to take control of the game.

The Drought

As if starting out by shooting 87.5% from the field were a dream, the Utes woke up in a hurry after Collette was sent to the bench. Without the force in the middle Utah’s offense shut down. Nobody seemed certain on where the ball should go or where to find their shots. Utah looked completely lost.

Utah would miss its next five shot attempts and 6:49 would pass by before the Utes would witness the ball fall through the net again. Over the nearly seven minute scoring drought Arizona took control of the game, with their 8-0 run the Wildcats claimed a 18-15 lead and would never let go of their lead.

Battle of the Boards

Arizona has always been one of the better rebounding teams in the Pac 12. Utah has always struggled to compete with the Wildcats off the glass. However, this year the Utes come into the game a much improved rebounding team than in years past.

The Wildcats used an aggressive approach in attacking the boards. Instead of finding a man, putting a body on him and boxing out, Arizona simply threw themselves in the direction of the ball without thought of whom was in the way. Arizona banged and battled for every board and the refs let the contact resume without penalty. Utah never attempted to match Arizona’s aggression and got destroyed on the glass.

In the first half Arizona out-rebounded Utah 21-9, including eight offensive rebounds which gave the Wildcats an additional ten points. The Utes did a much better job in the second half and grabbed 18 rebounds to Arizona’s 17, they also prevented them from grabbing a single offensive rebound, but at that point Utah was not going to regain the lead.

Can’t Buy a Three

Utah made things much easier for Arizona by continually launching the ball from beyond the arc despite their constant inefficiencies throughout the game. Even though they scored 34 points in the paint, the Utes completely abandoned feeding the post in the second half and settled for the easy three point attempts.Over a five minute stretch seven of Utah’s shot attempts were three pointers. Of the seven Utah only made two, and at one point they missed on four straight attempts.

Utah would finish the night with a measly 19% performance from deep, shooting 4-21. Kyle Kuzma and Sedrick Barefield led the charge by combining for a 2-12 outing. In comparison, Utah made 56.7% of their two point field goals, but simply ignored that aspect of the game for large periods of time.

Center of Attention

With the perimeter play being subpar, the only chance the Utes would have to be victorious would come from the center position. Unfortunately for Utah, the combination of Collette, Jayce Johnson and Tyler Rawson would be no match for Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen and Dusan Ristic. Utah’s performance was hindered with foul trouble as Johnson would foul out and Collette spent a lot of time on the bench with four fouls. On the other side Markkanen and Ristic escaped with only committing one foul a piece, allowing them to be more productive on the floor.

Utah would get 17 points(8-4) and eight rebounds out of the center position, while Arizona enjoyed 29(11-17) and 17 rebounds. The extra points from the fives was just enough to provide Arizona with the victory.

Up Next

Utah will now head to Tempe to take on the 9-7 Arizona State Sun Devils. Arizona State is coming off a narrow victory over the Colorado Buffaloes as Tra Holder hit a pair of free throws with 1.6 seconds left in the game to win 78-77. The game will be a matinee game beginning at 3:00 PM MT and will be aired on the Pac-12 Network.

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