SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For the first time in 20 years, the Utes basketball team upsets a top-5 ranked team.
Branden Carlson scored 22 points and Utah handed No. 4 Arizona its first loss of the season, 81-66 on Thursday night in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
This is Utah’s first victory over a top-5 team since beating #1 Alabama in 2002.
“That’s a big-time win for our program,” said head coach Craig Smith. “Arizona is so good. But our guys responded and found a way to win. What a great crowd tonight. You could feel the electricity tonight. Their support and energy really willed us down the stretch.”
Carlson went 5 of 9 from 3-point range. Rollie Worster had 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Utes (6-2), and Gabe Madsen and Ben Carlson scored 11 points apiece.
Oumar Ballo led Arizona (6-1) with 22 points and seven rebounds. Azuolas Tubelis added 20 points for the Wildcats, who trailed wire to wire.
Arizona, which just defeated two top-20 teams to win the Maui Invitational, struggled to generate a consistent offensive rhythm before halftime against Utah’s stifling defense. The Utes forced 11 turnovers in the first half that they converted into 15 points. When Arizona got looks at the basket, the Wildcats couldn’t knock down shots — making only 27% of their field goal attempts before halftime.
Ben Carlson and Worster each made back-to-back baskets to punctuate a 17-4 run that put the Utes ahead 39-20 late in the first half.
Arizona trimmed away some of the deficit early in the second half, cutting Utah’s lead to 52-46 on a 3-point play from Ballo. The Utes countered with an 18-4 run and weren’t seriously threatened from there.
Utah next visits Washington State on Sunday.