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January 26, 2014

No. 1 Arizona to host improved Utah



Top-ranked Arizona will look to set a school record for the longest winning streak Sunday in a meeting with the Pac-12 Conference's most improved team.

But Utah will come into McKale Center searching for its first road win of the season. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

The Wildcats (19-0, 6-0 Pac-12) matched the program mark in Thursday's 69-57 win over reeling Colorado. The victory showed why UA has been atop both major polls for seven consecutive weeks, suffocating the Buffaloes early with its defense and jumping out to a double-digit lead within five minutes.

The Wildcats shot 49.2 percent and turned the ball over just seven times.

"Great teams at home, teams that are really on that fast track that we hope we're on, seem to really be ready at the beginning of games," UA head coach Sean Miller said.

"It would be unrealistic to expect it every game, but it's something we talk a lot about."

Arizona was sparked by Aaron Gordon, who finished with 12 points - including five of his six field goals via dunks. In the last three home games, the freshman forward is averaging 15.3 points and shooting 60 percent from the field.

Utah (14-5, 3-4 Pac-12) is already a win shy of matching last season's win total, with 11 regular-season games left to play.

The Utes finished 6-25 in their first season in the league in 2011-12 and followed it up with a 15-18 mark the next season.

This season, Larry Krystkowiak's team rolled through its nonconference slate with an 11-1 record. In Pac-12 play it has proven to be a tough foe, losing the four games by a combined 11 points.

"I can't think of a coach and a program who's improved more than Utah has over the last two seasons," Miller said. "That right there should say a lot about the respect that we have and in the four times that we've played Utah, each of the four games have been very hard fought. I fully expect Sunday night to be the same."

Last season, the Wildcats swept the series but won both games by a combined seven points.

Overall, Utah has dropped its last seven to Arizona, with its last victory in 1998 to advance to the Final Four.

The Utes are coming off a 79-75 loss at Arizona State, despite a combined 43 points and 12 rebounds from Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright.

The duo makes up two-thirds of the team's double-figure scorers this season. Loveridge is averaging 16.7 points to lead the way, followed by Wright's 15.9 and Brandon Taylor's 10.5 per contest.

But Utah has been a different team away from home, averaging 61.3 points on 42.4 percent shooting on the road compared to 85.9 points on 52.8 percent in 15 home games.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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