Utes comeback bid fall short at #11 Arizona, 74-73

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TUCSON, Ariz. (ABC4 Sports) – For the second time in less than a month, Utah’s comeback attempt to defeat Arizona came up short as the Runnnin’ Utes fell to the No. 11-ranked Wildcats 74-73 Saturday afternoon at McKale Center.

Sedrick Barefield led the Utes for a second straight contest, scoring a game-high 26 points in 33 minutes off the bench, but it wasn’t enough and with the loss Utah dropped to 13-8 overall and 5-5 in Pac-12 play. Arizona won its seventh straight league game and improved to 8-1 in the conference standings, while pushing its overall record to 18-4.
 
Utah trailed by as many as 13 points with less than eight minutes to play in the first half, down 31-18, but then proceeded to go on a 13-3 run to cut the deficit down to just three-points. Arizona’s Dusan Ristic hit back-to-back buckets, which included a three-pointer, and Arizona would close out the half outscoring the Utes 9-2 to take a 10-point lead (43-33) into the half.
 
Utah shot just 38.5 percent in the first half, while giving up 69.6 percent to Arizona, which included the home team going 7-for-9 (.778) from downtown. The Wildcats opened the game knocking down their first six attempts and did not have a miss until the 14:08 mark of the period. Barefield led all scorers at the break with 13 points, going 4-for-6 from the field and a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. He would finish the contest going 8-for-12 overall, 2-of-4 from three-point range and a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line.
 
Both teams traded buckets throughout the first 10 minutes of the half before a 5-0 run pushed Arizona’s lead to 63-51. Barefield countered at the other end with a three-pointer and Utah proceeded to go on a 15-2 run to take its first lead of the game, up 66-65 at the 5:12 mark. Arizona would later go back up by four, 72-68, when Ristic knocked down his third three-pointer of the game with less than a minute and a half to play.
 
Barefield got Utah back within two, but Arizona knocked down a pair of free throws to go back up by four, 74-70.  Justin Bibbins, who finished with 10 points, knocked down a three-pointer with six seconds remaining and he was then fouled on the inbounds play, giving Utah a chance to win the game with four seconds left.
 
Utah inbounded the ball to Donnie Tillman and his lay-up effort was off the mark. Utah was then forced to foul and despite a Wildcat miss at the free throw line, Utah’s last-second heave was no good and the home team came away with the one-point victory.
 
Utah shot 50 percent in the second half, but Arizona still managed to score at a clip of 59.1 percent in the frame. The Wildcats finished shooting a season-high 64.4 percent, converting 29 of is 45 field goal attempts.
 
David Collette finished with 14 points and a team-high six rebounds on the day. Tyler Rawson and Bibbins both finished with four assists and Jayce Johnson recorded Utah’s lone block in the contest.
 
Utah is back in action next week, wrapping up a three-game road swing at Colorado next Friday, Feb. 2. Tip-off between the Utes and Buffaloes is set for 7 p.m. MT at Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colo.

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