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January 5, 2013

No. 3 Arizona squeaks out another, runs record to 14-0

For all of the blowouts and snooze-fests that third-ranked Arizona played in through the first half of the season, there has been no shortage of nail-biters in recent weeks.

The Wildcats received a game-high 19 points from Solomon Hill and survived a late scare Saturday to beat Utah, 60-57, at McKale Center.

Trailing by 7 with 8 1/2 minutes to play, the Utes went on a 6-0 run highlighted by a pair of Jason Washburn baskets to pull within 51-50. From there Arizona's largest lead in the wire-to-wire victory was four points.

Utah had its chances, however. Trailing 58-57 with 11 seconds to play, Jarred Dubois missed a clean look from the 3-point line. After a pair of Mark Lyons free throws extended the Wildcats' advantage to three points, Dubois' next 3-point attempt with three seconds to play bounced on the rim twice before Kevin Parrom snatched the rebound in the closing seconds.

"We pulled out another lucky one," Parrom said. "We've had a lot of lucky ones the past couple of weeks."

It was Arizona's third contest in its past six to go down to the wire in regulation, and just two days removed from a controversial win over Colorado in which officials disallowed what appeared to be a banked, game-winning 3-pointer as for the Buffaloes at the end of regulation.

Hill was an efficient 6 of 7 from the floor, Brandon Ashley added 11 points and Parrom chipped in 7 off the bench for the 'Cats (14-0, 2-0 Pac-12 Conference), who shot just 36.2 percent. Outside of the trio, however, UA converted just 7 of 38 shots.

The Utes (8-6, 0-2 Pac-12) made 14 of 27 shots after the break to hang around for most of the second half. Washburn paced Utah with 15 of his 17 points in the second half, made 8 of 14 shots and pulled down 11 rebounds.

But the Wildcats won the battle on the boards, 38-27, including 18-8 on the offensive glass. The loss kept Utah winless on the road since joining the Pac-12 last season.

The Utes also dropped a close affair in its conference opener Wednesday against Arizona State. The Utes could not convert any one of their four potential go-ahead shots inside the final 12 seconds of the 55-54 overtime loss.

"It's extremely frustrating because we came so close the past two games," Washburn said. "When our team plays well enough to win on the road against the No. 3 team in the country and it's taken away from you, I have no words for that."

Ashley, Hill and Parrom combined for all but eight of the Wildcats' 30 first-half points to help UA take a 30-23 lead at the half.

A Hill jump shot gave the 'Cats an early 13-5 advantage after the first six minutes, but the Utes clawed back to pull within a point with 11:11 remaining in the half. But Arizona responded with a 13-4 run to take its first double-digit lead with 4:52 remaining.

Nick Johnson's 3-pointer at that juncture, however, proved to be the Wildcats' final points of the half and the teams combined for just one field goal - a Jordan Loveridge 3-pointer - for the remainder of the half.

"We are not playing well. We are nowhere (near) where we need to be," UA head coach Sean Miller said. "Sometimes you hit a peak when you're playing so well and think no one in the country can beat you. Once in a while you don't play well and are reminded how difficult it is to win every game. We got through a weekend where the difference was very few points, but we were able to win both."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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