GAME NOTES: In the second part of a three-game homestand, the Utah Utes will clash with the Arizona State Sun Devils in a Pac-12 Conference contest at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Utah nearly pulled off a major upset on Wednesday, before falling in overtime to fourth-ranked Arizona (67-63). The loss was the second straight for the Utes and only their second in 18 chances at home this year. They are still a solid 17-9 overall, but with a less-than-stellar mark against conference foes (6-8). The homestand ends next Saturday against Colorado.
Arizona State was riding high on a three-game win streak following a 69-66 overtime triumph over Arizona last Friday, but it stumbled on the road this past Wednesday at Colorado (61-52). The Sun Devils are still in the Pac-12 title chase, with an 8-5 league ledger to go with their 19-7 overall mark. They will host Stanford in their next outing.
With wins in three of the last four meetings, including a 79-75 victory on Jan. 23, Arizona State has begun to close the gap in the all-time series with Utah. However, the Utes still hold a 27-20 advantage.
Aside from an 18-point showing from Jahii Carson, the Sun Devils were held in check offensively by Colorado. ASU only knocked down 31.5 percent of its shots from the floor, failing to reach double digits in field goals in either half.
Carson (18.8 ppg, 4.6 apg) is well on his way to All-Pac-12 honors, as he has been one of the best guards in the conference this season. He is second in the league in scoring, while ranking among the top-10 in assists. His 18-point performance against Colorado marked his ninth straight game in double figures. Jermaine Marshall (15.8 ppg) is capable of carrying the offensive load himself, as he did by netting 29 points against Arizona. However, Marshall came down to Earth against Colorado, with only seven points on 3-of-13 from the field. Jordan Bachynski (11.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 4.5 bpg) is not counted on to be a primary scorer, providing more of an impact on defense as the national leader in blocks.
Utah was trailing by 12 points midway through the second half and appeared to be on its way to a loss against Arizona. However, the Utes rallied, eventually tying the game at 56-56 with 28 seconds to play after Jordan Loveridge split a pair of free throws. The game then went to overtime, where the Utes struggled, hitting only 1-of-4 from the floor and 5-of-9 at the free-throw line to succumb to defeat.
By shooting at a 43.8 percent clip in the game overall, Utah was far below its normal rate against Arizona. The Utes are actually the sixth-best team in the country in field goal percentage (49.7), while averaging a solid 78.1 ppg. Delon Wright (16 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.6 spg) heads up the effort with his versatile play. Wright is among the top-five players in the league in assists (5.3 apg), field goal percentage (.586) and steals (2.6 spg), while a talented rebounder out of the backcourt. However, Wright had 12 points and six turnovers against Arizona. Loveridge (15.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) is another strong performer, with Brandon Taylor adding depth.
Visiting teams really seem to have trouble at the Huntsman Center. Arizona State should be the next victim, as the Utes will be able to get into more of a rhythm and keep the Sun Devils vexed.
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