TUCSON, Ariz. — Although Utah never had a lead at third-ranked Arizona, the Utes had quite a chance to take one in the closing seconds Saturday at the McKale Center.
It in the end, though, the opportunity fell by the wayside as the undefeated Wildcats held on for a 60-57 victory over the Utes.
“Our guys fought. We kept believing. That’s a very talented group of guys on Arizona’s team,” said Utah center Jason Washburn. “We got close. We felt we could win and we had the shots. They’re just not falling when we need them to.”
This time it was an open 3-pointer by Jarred DuBois that bounced off the rim with the Utes trailing 58-57 and 11 seconds left to play. Mark Lyons rebounded it for Arizona and made two free throws to cap all scoring in the contest. A late 3-point attempt by DuBois to tie the game also missed the mark.
“Make shots. That’s what we have to do,” said coach Larry Krystkowiak. “That’s what we’re not doing.”
As was the case in Wednesday’s 55-54 overtime loss at Arizona State, the Utes (8-6, 0-2) came up just short in their bid to win a Pac-12 road game for the first time since joining the conference last season.
Krystkowiak, who said it was a little bit of déjà vu from the setback to ASU, noted that it’s a fine line to do so.
“I’m convinced we’re going to catch some breaks,” he explained. “But we just have to continue to bring it and some of those shots are going to go in for us.”
Utah missed four shots in the final 12 seconds against ASU.
“Same story as Wednesday,” said center Jason Washburn, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. “I thought our team played well enough to win. I thought our guys really fought.”
Utah rallied from a 10-point deficit to make things interesting down the stretch.
Washburn fueled the Utes’ comeback with seven points in a 9-4 run that closed the score to 51-50 with 5:33 remaining. They pulled within one once again when Cedric Martin canned a 3-pointer with 1:07 to go, setting the scene for the dramatic finish. Martin later grabbed a rebound to give Utah possession and the opportunity to pull ahead on the shot by DuBois.
“A game like that, versus a team like that, it’s always going to be frustrating when you can’t come out with the win,” said forward Jordan Loveridge. “But you know I’m proud of my team and that’s a good team. We’re getting better every day. This is not a step back because we lost. We’re still getting better.”
The Utes’ six losses this season have come by a combined 22 points. This one, though, was especially painful because of the circumstances. Washburn felt the Utes played well enough to win on the road in the stadium with a loud crowd against the No. 3 team in the country.
“You get that close and it’s taken away from you ... I don’t have any words to describe it really,” Washburn said.
Unlike Utah’s closer-than-it-looks 70-61 loss in Tucson last year, Arizona didn’t miss 9 of its first 10 shots from the field Saturday. The Wildcats didn’t fall into a 12-2 hole or take more than nine minutes to make their second basket, either.
Arizona led 30-23 at halftime despite being held scoreless over the final 4:52. The Wildcats were able to weather the drought because of a strong start. They never trailed after opening the game with a 5-0 run, a lead that eventually swelled to 30-20.
Utah also struggled to score over the closing minutes of the half. A 3-pointer by Loveridge provided the only points the Utes put on the board over the last 5:21.
Both teams shot poorly. Arizona was 11 of 32 (34.4 percent) in the first 20 minutes, while Utah was just 7 of 22 (31.8 percent) from the field.
Loveridge led all scorers with 13 points at the break. He wound up with 17 in the game. Brandon Ashley and Solomon Hill had nine and eight, respectively, for the Wildcats in the first half.
“They did a very good job against us defensively,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller. “They made it hard for us and that kept them in the game. We were once again fortunate to win.”
The Utes return to action next week at home against UCLA on Thursday and USC on Saturday.
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