They can’t ever make things easy on the road (today was technically a neutral site) but today the Utes did just enough to advance to the 2nd round of the Pac 12 Men’s Basketball Championships with a 67-61 win over Washington. Utah got big games from their two best players, Delon Wright (15pts/7 rebs/3 steals) and Jordan Loveridge (13pts/9 rebs), plus great contributions from Princeton Onwas (big defensive effort) and Dakari Tucker (Biggest shot of the game). Here’s what Larry Krystkowiak had to say about his team’s effort when he joined the Bill and Hans Show after the game, here’s the audio.
So up next are the Pac 12′s best team, the Arizona Wildcats, the #1 seed in this tournament and perhaps a #1 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament. Arizona is the one team that Utah has fail to beat in their three years as members of the Pac 12 Conference. However, Utah this year and in all 6 overall meetings has played the Wildcats very well. Arizona won both meetings this season, by 9 in Tucson and an overtime win by 4 in Salt Lake City. Sean Miller made the comment after the loss in Tucson that nobody has played his team better or harder than Utah has the last 3 years. Those are nice things to hear if you are Larry Krystkowiak but he’s not into moral victories or pats on the head at this point in time.
Does Utah have a chance to spring the upset on Thursday? They most certainly do, but it will take a near perfect effort. Here are my three thoughts on what the Utes must do to beat Arizona:
1. Rebound the Basketball!
In their loss at Tucson the Utes were out boarded by 20. In Salt Lake City, the margin turned around and Utah won the board battle 37-31. That margin gave Utah every chance to win that game. Missed Free Throws were their undoing that night. Gordon, Tarczewski and Hollis-Jefferson might be the best rebounding trio in the conference and country. Utah must keep the rebounding margin close.
2. Break Down the Wall
Larry Krystkowiak calls the Arizona defense the best in Pac 12 and says they build a “Wall” around the basket. Utah must find a way to break that wall down. Delon Wright has done an outstanding job recently of penetrating and finishing around the rim. He must find a way to do that again and get his teammates involved. When open on the perimeter his teammates must knock down open shots.
3. Limit Nick Johnson
He’s the best player on the best team. In two games against the Utes he’s gone for 22pts and 15pts. He’s the only Wildcat that can consistently get his shot anywhere on the floor. He also happens to be their best defender. If you can keep Johnson somewhat in check you’ve got a great opportunity to knock off the big boys.
Tip Time tomorrow at 1:00 Mountain Time from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on ESPN 700.