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Arizona-Utah game blog: Wildcats hang on to win

Team Pac-12 Overall
Oregon 10-3 21-5
UCLA 9-4 19-7
Arizona 9-4 20-4
Arizona St. 8-5 19-7
California 7-5 15-9
USC 7-5 12-13
Colorado 7-6 17-8
Stanford 6-7 15-11
Washington 6-7 14-12
Utah 3-10 11-13
Oregon St. 3-10 13-13
Washington St. 2-11 11-15

Arizona manages to hold off Utah, just like it did in Tucson last month.

The Wildcats never trailed but did lose all of a 13-point second-half lead as Utah tied the game at 51 with 7:27 to go. A quick 5-0 burst from Arizona gave the Cats the breathing room they needed in a 68-64 victory.

Mark Lyons couldn’t buy a shot from the outside (1 of 9 from 3-point range), but he scored nine points in the final six minutes to help UA keep the lead. When he attacked, he was effective. He scored three times on drives to the hoop in the final six minutes.

Although he missed the front end of a one-and-one with 15 seconds left, he came up with a steal at the other end to secure the win.

Lyons had a team-high 18 points, making all five of his shots from inside the arc.

Kevin Parrom, who got his second start of the season, scored nine points — all in the second half — and had nine rebounds.

Arizona ended a two-game losing streak to improve to 21-4 overall and 9-4 in the Pac-12 (updated standings on the right).

Related: Sean Miller has sarcastic solution to end-of-half problems

* * *

Big miss from 3-point range by Utah’s Jordan Loveridge with 45 seconds left. Arizona up 64-59.

* * *

Lyons delivers a no-look pass down low to Kevin Parrom for a 62-57 lead with 1:47 left.

* * *

Mark Lyons is 1 of 9 from 3-point range… and won’t stop taking them. Arizona holding on 60-57 with about two minutes to go.

* * *

A critical stretch by Arizona: Solomon Hill follows a 3-point miss by Mark Lyons and drives to the basket for two points. After Jason Washburn missed a jumper on the other end, the Cats pushed the tempo and Lyons finished with a three-point play for a 56-51 lead with 5:52 to go.

* * *

Utah ties the game at 51 with 7:27 to play on a tip-in by Jason Washburn. This Arizona team isn’t frustrating at all, is it?

* * *

The defense is leaving Arizona, as coach Sean Miller would say. Jeremy Olson’s short jump hook cuts Arizona’s lead to 51-49 with 8:44 to go, as Miller needs to call a timeout.

* * *

Now, it’s getting interesting. Utah freshman big man Jeremy Olson — who didn’t play in the team’s first meeting and is averaging 2.9 points per game — is destroying Arizona inside. He’s 5 of 5 for 10 points. Dakari Tucker’s 3-pointer makes it 49-44 Arizona with 9:56 to go.

* * *

As with the game in Tucson, Utah not going away. But good news for Arizona: Brandon Ashley has responded to losing his starting job, at least for a game. His steal and one-man fast break gives Arizona a 48-37 lead with 12:03 to go. He has a team-high 10 points and has made 4 of 4 shots. He has three rebounds and three steals.

* * *

Fast start for Arizona in the second half. Imagine that. Kaleb Tarczewski finished down low for two points and then Kevin Parrom set up Mark Lyons for a long 2-pointer. By the time the first media timeout came around with 15:45 to go, the Cats had extended an eight-point halftime lead to 43-30.

* * *

Utah scores the final four points of the half, including a layup from Brandon Taylor with 0.7 seconds left. Not a first half for the textbooks, with the teams combining for 17 turnovers. Arizona had eight of them, half from Mark Lyons.

Arizona’s trio of freshman big men have 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting.

Now, the Cats have to avoid the post-halftime blues. Bad starts to the second half have been the leading cause of the past two losses.

* * *

Utah is the least-talented offensive team in the Pac-12 and wants to use much of the shot clock. Arizona has the athleticism and energy needed to make life miserable for the Utes, which is shooting just 7 of 23 (30.4 percent) as the Cats hold a 28=-19 lead with 3:19 to go in the half. Jordan Loveridge has played only five minutes for Utah because of foul trouble.

* * *

Arizona takes its biggest lead of the first half at 26-17 on a 3-pointer by Mark Lyons with 6:27 left after the Wildcats keep the ball alive with an offensive rebound. Perhaps the freshman big men got the message: Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett have a combined 12 points on 4 of 5 shooting.

* * *

Solomon Hill has made his first two shots today. He was 6 of 7 vs. the Utes in the first meeting.

* * *

Brandon Ashley active upon entering the game, getting fouled on a low-post move and then hitting a mid-range jumper. He’s got nothing on Angelo Chol, though, as Chol gives UA a 14-9 lead with 11:27 to go on a drive into the lane, a spin move and a lefty jump hook.

* * *

Utah’s Jordan Loveridge picks up his second foul with 14:54 to go in the half. The talented freshman is going to have to sit for a while. He had 17 points in the teams’ first meeting.

* * *

Brandon Ashley and Angelo Chol check in after the first media timeout. Interesting that Chol gets the nod before Grant Jerrett. It’s a deserved change in the rotation given the way Chol has played lately.

* * *

A so-so start for Arizona. Not a lot of interesting basketball by the first media timeout, with the Cats leading 5-4 and Utah’s Cedric Martin going to the line to try to finish a three-point play.

New starter Kevin Parrom hasn’t been involved offensively yet, as the Cats have three turnovers. Utah is shooting just 2 of 8 from the field.

Crowd won’t be a factor: Ample empty seats at the Huntsman Center.

* * *

Arizona has shot 42.3 percent or worse in five of the past seven games. Let’s see if the Cats can push the pace and get in transition for better shots. Utah will want to make it more of a half-court grind.

* * *

12:07 p.m. update: Senior forward Kevin Parrom will make his second start of the season, replacing freshman post player Brandon Ashley, according to the pregame show on 1290-AM.

Sean Miller said in his pregame radio interview the move was made mostly with an eye toward getting another senior in the lineup. As the season winds down, Miller is going to go more and more with players he can trust and who understands about the pressure of March.

“It’s not so much a negative toward one player — Brandon — as much as we need to go with the older players,” Miller said. “Right now, we’re coming down the home stretch. The seniors have the most at stake.

“And, in particular this game, the matchup of going small early I think can get us off to a good start.”

Parrom is averaging 8.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per game. Ashley is averaging 7.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 21.2 minutes.

The change in the lineup is also a response to a myriad of slow starts in the past few weeks — at the start of games and start of the second half.

“Their recent play dictates a change,” Miller said of the starting lineup.

Miller has been resistant to putting in Parrom at small forward and moving Solomon Hill to the four, saying last week the coaches feel the best path to success is with a traditional two-post look. But more slow starts and a two-game losing streak has forced his hand.

Parrom usually brings energy to the court, and he’ll be trying to regain his shooting touch. Parrom is hitting just 27 percent of 3-point attempts (10 of 37) in league play.

* * *

Arizona, having lost two games in a row, will try to avoid falling into a Pac-12 logjam.

The Wildcats enter today’s game at Utah with an 8-4 league mark. A loss would put them two games behind Oregon, one behind UCLA … and they would be tied in the loss column with four other league teams. (Cal and USC, both 7-5, play each other tonight.)

Utah is near the bottom of the league standings but should have Arizona’s full attention (as if the Cats aren’t already on high alert after their two consecutive losses). The Utes have won two in a row, are coming off a win over Arizona State, and pushed UA to the limit in Tucson.

Arizona led by 10 with 14:29 to go, but Utah whittled to the lead to one point on a couple of occasions and missed a last-second 3-pointer as UA held on 60-57.

“We were confident last time we played them and we’re going to go in with the same confidence,” Utah freshman forward Jordan Loveridge said in the Deseret News.

“It was a close game and a couple of calls didn’t go our way and the ball didn’t bounce our way. So we have all the faith in the world that we are going to have another good game versus them.”

* * *

Arizona shot 36.2 percent in the first meeting against Utah. That kind of defense is a strength for the Utes, which is allowing conference opponents to make 42 percent of their shots. They have held the opposition to 28.1 percent shooting from 3-point range (16 of 57) in the past three games.

The Cats are shooting just 42.1 percent in conference games, ranked eighth in the league.

Solomon Hill

Arizona’s Solomon Hill scored a team-high 19 points in the first meeting vs. Utah. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

* * *

Arizona is holding as a No. 2 seed in Jerry Palm’s projected NCAA Tournament bracket on CBSSports.com. The Pac-12 has five teams in this projection, updated Sunday morning, although all but the Wildcats are down toward the lower end of the seedings. Oregon is a No. 8 seed, UCLA and Colorado are at 9, California is a No. 11.

Arizona State, which won at Colorado on a last-second layup in overtime Saturday night, is among the last four out.

* * *

Utah center Jason Washburn was superb in the game in Tucson, finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds. After the game, Miller said this about thje 6-10, 242-pound senior:

“I would be really surprised if he doesn’t play in the NBA. I don’t think a couple of years ago he would have been that. He’s agile. He can score.”

The much-improved Washburn scored a career-high 26 points, to go with nine rebounds, in Utah’s win over Arizona State on Wednesday.

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