Johnson scored a team-high 22 points, including making multiple
key baskets during a game-defining run, as Arizona finally put away
Utah 65-56 Sunday night to set a modern school record with its 20th
Arizona (20-0, 7-0 Pac-12) surpassed the mark shared by the 1992-93
and 1997-98 teams.
Johnson scored eight points in a 14-2 second-half run, including a
running hook shot off the glass, a baseline drive for a two-handed
dunk and a floater in the lane that put Arizona up 59-49 with 3:53
"In the spring, I tried to get him invited to a number of things
that elite college players get invited to, and they gave me not even
a phone call back," Arizona coach Sean Miller said of Johnson.
"Nick Johnson is playing as well as any guard in the country. It's
simple. He's done it in the biggest moments. He's terrific. And, by
the way, I'm not even talking about offense. I'm talking about
leadership, playing more than one position, defending the other
team's best perimeter player.
"He's a heck of a player right now for us."
Utah (14-6, 3-5) fell to 0-5 in road games, although this was the
Utes' first loss of the season by more than four points. Guard Delon
Wright led Utah with 19 points, and he added six rebounds, four
assists and three steals. Forward Jordan Loveridge contributed 14
points, and wing Dakarai Tucker scored 10.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowkiak said Arizona eventually wore down his
team, especially on the glass. The Wildcats had 40 rebounds — 20 on
the offensive glass. UA had a 19-6 edge in second-chance points.
"They pounded us," Krystkowiak said. "We just couldn't match their
level of physicality. It was a whooping when it came to the boards."
Arizona forward Aaron Gordon was only three of 13 from the field,
but he channeled his energy to rebounding. He finished with 10
points and 12 rebounds. He broke a 47-47 tie with a thunderous dunk
off a missed shot.
"My all-around game wasn't too good, so my rebounding is something I
can focus on," said Gordon, who had his sixth double-double of the
season. "I was taking my aggression and frustration out on
Arizona forward Brandon Ashley scored 11 points, all in the second
half, and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 10 points.
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Utah started the game on a 7-0 run, including a 3-pointer by
Loveridge, and extended the lead to 12-2 on a steal and
fast-break layup by Wright with 12:55 to go in the half.
"It was a good feeling," Wright said. "We jumped out early and
we should have contained the lead, but we did come out with a
lot of energy like Coach wanted."
Utah's changing defenses — including a triangle-and-two, a 2-3
zone, man-to-man, lots of switches on screens — gave Arizona
trouble for much of the game.
"We kind of had that look for eight to 10 minutes of, 'What do
we do?'" Miller said.
Arizona had only four points at the second media timeout, but
went on a 12-0 run in what became a hotly contested first half.
Johnson helped rescue the Wildcats with 11 first-half points.
Arizona led 31-26 at the break thanks to center Kaleb Tarczewski
barely beating the buzzer on a dunk off Gordon's air-ball after
a rushed drive to the basket.
Arizona will chalk this one up to another game of wearing down
the No. 1 target and getting the other team's best shot.
"It was a tough game," said Johnson, who scored 40 points in
Arizona's sweep of Colorado and Utah this week.
"It was the hardest 11-point win we've had this season. It's
definitely good for us."
NOTES: Utah F Renan Lenz, who entered Sunday averaging 6.6
points and 3.1 rebounds per game, returned after missing three
games because of an ankle injury. He played only two first-half
minutes. ... The Arizona coaching staff wore pins that featured
a purple ribbon with the words "4 Pete's Sake." It was a show of
support for Akron assistant Dan Peters, who is fighting
pancreatic cancer. Peters' son, Danny, is the Wildcats'
assistant director of basketball operations. ... Arizona plays
at Stanford on Wednesday night on ESPN2. ... The Utes have lost
eight in a row to Arizona. Their last win in the series came
against top-seeded UA in the 1998 West Regional final, when Rick
Majerus' triangle-and-two defense stymied the defending national
champions. ... Utah will be looking for the 1,700th victory in
school history when it plays at Colorado on Saturday.
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