Salt Lake City, UT (SportsNetwork.com) - The Pac-12's two best teams will collide on Saturday evening at the Huntsman Center, as the 13th-ranked Utah Utes battle the seventh-ranked Arizona Wildcats.
Sean Miller's Wildcats can secure a share of the Pac-12 title with a win over the Utes on Saturday. Arizona, which has won five straight games, sits atop the conference standings at 13-2, one game ahead of Utah (12-3) with three games to play. The team moved one step closer to that conference crown with Thursday's 82-54 rout of Colorado. Arizona is an impressive 6-2 in Pac-12 road games this season.
Larry Krystkowiak's Utes have quietly gone about their business this season, sporting a 22-5 overall record. Last weekend's loss at Oregon (69-58) ended a five-game win streak for Utah and left the team a game behind Arizona in the standings. The Utes were able to find the win column again on Thursday, with an emphatic 83-41 dismantling of Arizona State. Utah is a perfect 16-0 at home this season.
Arizona holds a narrow 29-28 lead in the all-time series thanks to wins in each of the last 11 meetings with Utah. The Wildcats are seeking the regular- season sweep after making light work of the Utes in Tucson on Jan. 17, 69-51.
Arizona took full advantage of a struggling Colorado team, shooting .529 from the floor in Boulder in a lopsided win. Five Wildcats notched double figures in the victory, led by Stanley Johnson's 15 points. Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York poured in 14 points each, while Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson chipped in 11 apiece in the offensive onslaught.
The Wildcats own a hefty +17.3 scoring margin this season and have shown few weaknesses at either end of the floor. The team is netting a healthy .491 from the field and putting up 75.8 ppg, while limiting foes to just 58.6 ppg on .396 shooting. UA also lives comfortably in terms of rebounding (+8.7) and turnover (+2.8) margins. Johnson is one of the bright young stars in the league, as the freshman leads Arizona in both scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg). Ashley (11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Hollis-Jefferson (11.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg) add to a deep frontcourt. T.J. McConnell runs the point effectively, as both a scorer (9.8 ppg) and distributor (6.0 apg).
The Utes served notice to the Wildcats that Saturday's game would be a battle, as they shot over 62 percent from the floor in both halves against ASU and put the game away in the first half, leading 41-9 at the break. Delon Wright led with 12 points in the victory. Kenneth Ogbe added 11 points in 11 minutes of work off the bench. Dakari Tucker and Chris Reyes chipped in with nine points apiece, while Jordan Loveridge, Jakob Poeltl and Brandon Taylor finished with eight points each.
Much like Arizona, Utah has shown the ability to win at either end of the floor this season. The team averages 73.0 ppg on a highly efficient .495 shooting, while limiting foes to a meager 55.6 ppg and just .376 shooting. The 6-5 Wright is a do-it-all guard who runs the show for Utah. He leads the team in scoring (14.2 ppg), assists (5.3 apg) and steals (61) and ranks second in rebounding (4.6 rpg). Taylor is the only other Ute sporting a double-digit scoring average at 10.5 ppg, although Loveridge (9.9 ppg), Poeltl (8.7 ppg) and Tucker (8.0 ppg) aren't far off the mark.