SALT LAKE CITY – Utah has showed flashes of potential in the Pac-12 at times. Still, the Utes are having trouble overcoming mistakes and closing out games.
Those problems were evident yet again in a 68-64 loss to No. 9 Arizona on Sunday.
Arizona led by as many as 13 early in the second half only to see Utah respond with a 14-3 run to tie it at 51 with 7:28 remaining on a tip-in basket from Jason Washburn.
But the Utes could not overcome a series of big baskets by Mark Lyons down the stretch. Lyons converted a three-point play to help Arizona go ahead with 56-51 with 5:52 left and he helped keep the Wildcats a step ahead of Utah in the closing minutes.
That denied the Utes (11-14, 3-10) an opportunity to win back-to-back games in Pac-12 play for the first time since joining the conference two years ago.
"When you're in a close game, guys have to step up and make shots like we did last game," Washburn said. "We just couldn't do it this game. We had a couple of calls that really didn't go our way. We didn't step up and make shots when we really needed to make them and we didn't get stops when we needed to get them."
Lyons scored 18 points to help the Wildcats (21-4, 9-4) bounce back from their worst loss of the season. Brandon Ashley added 10 points off the bench.
Jarred DuBois had 16 points, Washburn added 15 and Jeremy Olsen chipped in 12 for the Utes.
A 3-pointer by Dakarai Tucker pulled Utah to 56-54 with 4:46 left, but a putback by Kevin Parrom and a layup by Lyons helped seal it for the Wildcats. Utah had chances to get closer in the final minutes but was undone by turnovers and missed shots.
"We had some mindless turnovers, but I was encouraged that we came back and were a couple of plays away from making it happen," coach Larry Krystkowiak said.
Just like the first game between Arizona and Utah this season, this one went down to the wire.
Early in the second half, the Wildcats appeared to take control. Arizona bumped its lead to 41-28 on a twisting layup by Lyons with 17:43 left as it opened the second half on an 8-3 run.
Utah, with three freshmen on the floor, fought back.
DuBois and Tucker hit 3-pointers and Olsen had two more baskets in the paint during Utah's big run.
After Washburn tied it, Solomon Hill scored on a tough layup and Lyons converted a three-point play as Arizona went up 56-51.
"We just wanted to push the ball, keep playing and not give up because it was just coming down to crunch time," Tucker said. "You want to get your stuff together because you don't want to mess up."
Utah pulled to 60-57 on two free throws by DuBois with 3:15 remaining. But freshman Jordan Loveridge, who was 1 of 9 from the field, turned it over and Parrom scored on a nice feed from Lyons for a five-point edge with 1:48 left.
DuBois made one of two free throws and Lyons scored on a drive with 1:10 left for a 64-58 edge.
Washburn hit a 3 at the buzzer to make the final margin closer.
"We needed points," Lyons said. "We were getting shots but we just weren't making them. I was trying to take it upon myself to get something going."
Arizona led by as many as 12 in the first half as the Wildcats hit five 3-pointers and limited Utah to 37 percent shooting. Then Arizona went cold from 3-point range in the second half, making just 1 of 10.
Wildcats coach Sean Miller credited the Utes with making things difficult for his team on the defensive end throughout the second half.
"They have the ability to play different types of defense," Miller said. "You have to recognize it and make shots."
Utah shot just 39.6 percent and finished 7 of 16 from 3-point range after going 2 of 8 in the first half.
Olsen came off the bench and kept Utah within reach before the break by hitting all three of his shots. Brandon Taylor's driving layup with 1 second left pulled the Utes to 33-25 at halftime.
Arizona took only six shots in the first 9 minutes but made five to jump ahead 14-9.
Hill opened 3 of 3, including a pair of 3-pointers, to give Arizona a 21-14 lead with 8:44 left in the half.
Lyons' 3-pointer with 6:27 left made it 26-17, and his free throws with 1:43 to go put Arizona ahead 33-21.
Despite the win and losses last week by other top 10 teams, Arizona is expected to fall when the new rankings are released Monday.
With five games remaining, the Wildcats are tied with UCLA for second place in the conference standings, a game behind No. 23 Oregon.