LAS VEGAS (ABC4 Sports) – Utah’s history against Kentucky has not been great.
The Utes had lost 8 straight to the Wildcats, including a stretch of 7 in a row in the NCAA Tournament from 1993-2005.
But Wednesday night in Las Vegas, the Utes rolled the dice and came up winners against the 6th ranked team in the country.
Timmy Allen hit a tiebreaking floater with 1:14 left and Utah held off a late rally for a thrilling 69-66 upset victory.
This is Utah’s first victory over a top-10 team since they beat #9 Arizona in 2016. It’s their first victory over Kentucky since 1976.
The Wildcats (8-2) used a 27-10 run to tie it at 66 on Ashton Hagans’ dunk with 1:43 remaining, but Allen put the Utes (9-2) back ahead with his basket.
Kentucky got off three more shots, including two in the final 11 seconds, but none connected.
Allen had 25 points and nine rebounds and played all 40 minutes of the game. Both Gach contributed 14 points and six rebounds, Rylan Jones had 12 points and Riley Battin added 10 for the Utes.
“It was tough, but that’s the stuff I work on,” Allen said about his game-winning shot. “I’m not surprised I made it, but I had a 6-foot-11 guy right there, so getting it over him was tough, he’s a big, physical presence. But that’s the stuff I work on.”
Utah shot a blistering 62.5% (10 of 16) from the floor in the second half and was 23 of 42 (54.8%) for the game, including 53.3% (8 of 15) from 3-point range.
“When we were under control, we were pretty darned good when we shared the ball,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “I thought there were some stretches when we lost our composure, turning it over and maybe forced some shots. For our guys to kind of stay in the fight, that was pretty cool.”
Tyrese Maxey led Kentucky with 18 points, and Hagans added 16.
Maxey had a chance to tie it but was called for an offensive foul when he drove the lane and barreled into Battin, giving the Utes the ball with 22.7 seconds left.
Jones hit 1 of 2 free throws to give Utah a three-point lead.
Maxey missed a 3-pointer, Kentucky scrambled for the rebound, and Immanuel Quickley clanked a 3 off the rim as time ran out.
“They physically fought, they fought for position, they fought for defense, they fought for rebounds, they fought running down the floor they outran (us),” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “That’s what I’m trying to get my team to do. That was a great win and they deserved it. I mean he outcoached me the way they did it, and they outplayed us. They deserved to win the game.”
The Utes opened on a 10-4 run as Gach hit four of his first five shots. Utah made seven of its first nine from the floor to take an 18-9 lead midway through the first half.
Kentucky struggled to find a rhythm early, hitting just four of its first 14 attempts. The Wildcats were just 13 of 31 from the floor in the first half. They closed the half hitting 6 of 9 to cut Utah’s lead to 35-31 at halftime.
Utah stretched the lead to as many as 17 points in the second half before Kentucky mounted its rally.
After missing the last two games with a rib injury, Jones seemed to re-aggravate his injury on a fall midway through the second half and briefly had to leave the game. The freshman from Olympus High finished with 12 points and 6 assists in 38 minutes of action.
“I think you can see Rylan has some poise and some savvy to him,” said Krystkowiak. “These guys know he’s a warrior, and I thought there were a lot of savvy plays out there where he did a good job with foul trouble. That tumble he took with about 5:00 to go in the game, I couldn’t believe he came back out of the locker room. It says a lot about his toughness.”
Utah faces another ranked team Saturday night when they take on #20 San Diego State (10-0) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.