No. 9 Wildcats seek turnaround against Utes

10:40 AM, Feb 17, 2013   |    comments
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Salt Lake City, UT (Sports Network) - The ninth-ranked Arizona Wildcats will try to stop a two-game slide as they travel to Salt Lake City for a Pac-12 Conference tilt with the Utah Utes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Losses to California and Colorado have Arizona reeling entering this contest. The Wildcats are 20-4 overall, but will likely drop in the national rankings come Monday. The losing streak has also allowed the Pac-12 regular season title chase to become much more wide open. At 8-4, the Wildcats are a half game behind UCLA for second in the league standings. Arizona will return home to face Washington in its next outing.

Utah earned a rare conference victory on Wednesday by upsetting Arizona State, 60-55, in the first half of this two-game homestand. The Utes are just 3-9 in league play, ahead of only Oregon State and Washington State at this time. Utah has earned nine of its wins at the Huntsman Center this season but has also suffered six losses. A three-game road trip awaits Utah next, beginning against Colorado.

When these teams met on Jan. 5, Utah put up quite a fight against the then No. 3 Wildcats but fell short in a 60-57 decision. Arizona has now won six straight contests with the Utes, who still lead the all-time series, 28-24.

Arizona was outplayed by Colorado on Thursday night. The Wildcats shot just 42.3 percent from the floor in the contest and hit only 5-of-19 from beyond the arc while committing a game-high 14 turnovers. Colorado meanwhile, hit 50 percent of its field goal tries and led by as many as 15 points. Solomon Hill scored 12 points and brought in seven rebounds to pace the Wildcats.

Leading scorer Mark Lyons (15.2 ppg) had 11 points in the contest on 4-of-10 shooting after he had averaged 20.3 points per game during the previous three contests. Hill (13.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) is the second option and one of three players averaging at least five boards a contest. The 6-foot-7 forward has been solid since league play began, scoring in double figures in all 12 contests, while collecting at least six rebounds eight times. Nick Johnson (12.2 ppg) runs with Lyons in the backcourt and is the only other double-figure scorer on the roster. Arizona has enjoyed a nearly 11-point scoring margin on the season as the second-highest scoring squad in the Pac-12 (73.8 ppg).

Led by a career-high 26 points and nine rebounds from Jason Washburn, Utah was able to pull off the upset against Arizona State. The Utes held the Sun Devils to 40 percent shooting and closed the game on a 13-2 run to secure the victory.

The low-scoring nature of the win against Arizona State fit Utah just fine. The Utes are 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring (64.8), despite shooting a solid 45 percent from the field. The Utes are also 11th in the conference in rebounds (35.1 ppg) but have kept within striking distance most nights by holding foes to 62 points per game on 38.6 percent shooting. Jordan Loveridge (12.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Washburn (11.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) form a solid one-two punch on the interior for the Utes, while Jarred DuBois (11.9 ppg, 3.2 apg) handles things from the perimeter. The Utes have no other players scoring more than 6.5 points per game.

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