TUCSON – Following a 79-88 loss to Stanford last Saturday, the Arizona Wildcats badly needed to bounce back with a win over the Utah Utes.
The Stanford loss ended a seven-game winning streak, and the Wildcats fell from being the fourth-ranked team in the country to No. 8.
Back-to-back losses at this point in the season could prove devastating to the Wildcats’ chances of finishing atop the Pac-12, not to mention the blemish it would have left on their record come seeding time for the NCAA tournament.
But the Wildcats dominated the Utes in an 88-62 win, thanks in part to the play of guards Courtney Ramey and Kerr Kriisa. The duo combined for 30 points and shot 7-for-10 from the 3-point line.
“They did a really good job of hunting the right shots and playing loose and aggressive on offense,” Lloyd said of his team’s starting guard play.
The Wildcats avoided a sweep against Utah, which won the first meeting in December, 81-66. The Wildcats (23-4 overall, 12-4 in Pac-12) and Utes (17-10,10-6) had plenty on the line as both teams entered the game ranked second and third in the Pac-12 standings, respectively.
Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd anticipated nothing less than a hard-fought battle going in, but a combination of sharpshooting and lockdown defense led to a 12-point halftime lead en route to a 26-point victory.
While limiting Utah to 32% shooting, the Wildcats shot 57% from the field, including 50% from three as a team.
The Wildcats’ midrange game keyed their success. Wildcats guard Kylan Boswell, who pitched in 8 points, shared that the team’s success shooting came from the Utes’ defensive scheme.
“The midrange was open all day so we just took it,” Boswell said. “If that shot is open, I feel like everybody should take it 10 times out of 10.”
Wildcats guard Luc Krystkowiak believes “the sky’s the limit” for the team on offense if the hot shooting continues. After all, the Wildcats won in dominant fashion despite a rare off-night from star forward Azuolas Tubelis.
“Everybody knows Azuolas is a special part of our team, but we know how to play with four guards or whatever the situation may be,” Boswell said.
Following the win, the Wildcats remain second in the Pac-12 with just four games left to catch up to first-place UCLA.
As a huge matchup with UCLA approaches in the last game of the season, the Wildcats must take the remaining schedule one game at a time, starting Saturday against the Colorado Buffaloes.
While Colorado sits in the middle of the pack in the conference standings, Lloyd knows the Buffaloes can compete with any team.
“When they’ve been right, they’ve been able to play and almost beat anybody,” Lloyd said. “They have our full attention.”