TUSCON, Ariz. (ABC4 Sports) – The Runnin’ Utes hung with #6 Arizona for a half, before eventually getting run over by the Wildcats.
Azoulas Tubelis scored 32 points, Christian Koloko added 16 points, and No. 6 Arizona dominated Utah inside for an 82-64 win on Saturday night.
“We just didn’t have an answer for Tubelis,” Utes head coach Craig Smith said.
Arizona’s offense was a bit off-kilter early with point guard Kerr Kriisa out after he was hurt “horsing around” with some teammates during the pregame meal.
The Wildcats (14-1, 4-0 Pac-12) struggled with turnovers early and shooting from the perimeter all night, going 3 for 18 from the 3-point arc, leading the Utes 34-31 at the half.
But Arizona dominated the second half, using a 21-0 run, as the Wildcats Arizona outscored Utah 56-28 in the paint.
“I really did challenge those big guys,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “I’ve coached this offense a lot of years and you’ve got to fight to get those high-lows. If you don’t fight, they’re not going to happen. You don’t just get those out of thin air.”
Utah arrived in the desert already at a disadvantage inside with 7-foot junior Branden Carlson missing his second straight game with appendicitis.
The Utes (8-9, 1-6) were effective at slowing the Wildcats well into the second half, allowing them to hang around. The physical pounding of Arizona’s big men took a toll and Utah struggled to take care of the ball, turning it over 20 times.
Both Gach scored 12 points to lead Utah, which has lost five straight. Dusan Mahorcic and Lahat Thioune each added 10 points for the Utes.
“They just wore us down, specifically in the paint with their 4s and their 5s and their physicality,” Smith said.
Arizona has struggled with turnovers at times with Kriisa in the lineup and the guard’s absence seemed to exacerbate it early against a Utah team that was able to slow the pace.
The Wildcats threw several wild passes early, including a couple that sailed into the crowd, and had 10 turnovers by halftime. Arizona also struggled to hit shots early, missing numerous open looks in half-court sets — 1 for 11 from 3 — as Utah controlled the tempo.
Tubelis had no trouble hitting shots. The Lithuanian big man repeatedly got to the basket on free drives for dunks or quick shots underneath. He had 16 points by halftime and Arizona finally found an offensive groove late, using a 12-4 run to go up 34-31 at halftime.
He kept dealing in the second half, with free runs for a couple of early dunks and scoring three straight baskets during the 21-0 run that put Arizona up 67-45.
Tubelis finished 14 of 24 from the floor, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists.
The Utes shot just 41.1 percent from the floor, while Arizona made 50.8 percent of its shots.
Utah next plays at Arizona State Monday at 2:00 p.m.