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February 17, 2013

Wildcats escape with road split

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Just when it looked like ninth-ranked Arizona was ready to leave its recent second-half woes behind Sunday afternoon, times got rough before closing out Utah and ending a two-game skid.

The Wildcats squandered a 13-point lead before escaping the Huntsman Center with a 68-64 road win and a Rocky Mountain road split.

UA senior Mark Lyons scored a game-high 18 points, but his shot selection was a microcosm of his team's struggles. Lyons was a perfect 5 for 5 from inside the 3-point line but 1 of 9 beyond the arc.

Leading by eight after a modest first half, the Wildcats (21-4, 9-4 Pac-12 Conference) exploded in the first 2 1/2 minutes to quickly push the lead to 41-28.

But UA, which has been outperformed each of the previous two games after the break including Thursday at Colorado, allowed Utah to storm back in a hurry. Against a zone, the Wildcats resorted to contested 3-point attempts to give the Utes (11-14, 3-10 Pac-12) an opening.

Trailing by 11 with 12 minutes left, Utah went on a 14-3 run highlighted by three Jeremy Olsen baskets to tie game at 51.

Finally, the Wildcats went back into the lane, and Lyons two baskets and pair of free throws in the final 3:16 helped hold off the Utes.

In an all-around effort, Nick Johnson chipped in four points, four rebounds, four steals, four assists and no turnovers for UA, which shot 47.2 percent from the field.

Utah converted 5 of 8 3-point attempts in the second half against the Wildcats, who came into the game a dreadful 15 of 30 defending the long range shot over the last two games. However, 15 turnovers plagued the Utes.

Jason Washburn scored 15 points and grabbed seven boards to pace Utah, which also received 12 and six off the bench from Olsen. Jarred DuBois added a team-high 16 points and made 3 of 4 from distance.

Leading up to the week of games, Miller said Tuesday that he would not tinker his starting lineup unless things changed. After losing Thursday at Colorado, 71-58, Miller saw enough to start Kevin Parrom over Brandon Ashley, moving Solomon Hill to power forward.

Ashley responded to the change positively, and the UA freshmen bigs combined to score 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting through the first 20 minutes. Ashley finished with 10 points and three steals to lead the trio.

The teams traded baskets for the first seven minutes. Tied at 9, Arizona used a 9-3 run and the help of sloppy Utah ball handling to create separation.

With 2:07 remaining, Grant Jerrett's 3-pointer extended the lead to 31-21, but a Lyons turnover inside the final 10 seconds led to Brandon Taylor's layup just before the end of the half. UA took a 33-25 lead in the locker room

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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