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Utes come up short in Pac-12 battle with Arizona

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It hurts knowing we had it and kind of let it slip through our fingers a little bit. – Utah center Dallin Bachynski

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s bid for a share of the Pac-12 regular season title likely slipped away down the stretch Saturday. The 13th-ranked Utes lost a six-point lead in the final eight minutes and ultimately a 63-57 decision to No. 7 Arizona before a capacity crowd of 15,165 in the Huntsman Center.

The loss dropped Utah to 22-6 overall and 12-4 in conference play — two games behind the Wildcats (26-3, 14-2) with one week to go. The Utes finish the regular season with games at Washington State and Washington, while the Wildcats close things out at home against California and Stanford.

“It hurts knowing we had it and kind of let it slip through our fingers a little bit,” said Utah center Dallin Bachynski. “I know that we’re going to learn from it and make sure on Monday we have a good practice. It’s going to hurt for a couple of days — for sure, but we’ve got to make sure we move forward.”

Utah’s 18-game home winning streak came to end on Senior Night when Bachynski and Delon Wright were honored in pregame ceremonies.

“It was real disappointing. This (was) a chance at the Pac-12 title,” said Wright, who finished with a team-high 17 points, five assists and three blocks. “Things happen, but it was real disappointing.”

Bachynski added to it.

“I don’t know if you can really answer how disappointing it was because I think, maybe, it’s going to take a little time for it to truly hit us — how close we were,” he said.

Utah led 47-41 after Brandon Taylor made a 3-pointer with 8:20 to go. Arizona, though, responded with a 3-pointer by Gabe York to open a 9-2 burst that put the Wildcats on top 50-49 in a span of less than two minutes. The Utes managed to recapture the lead twice down the stretch but fell behind for good when York, a 6-foot-3 guard, rebounded his own missed free throw after making one and laid it in for a basket to give his team a 58-57 edge.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said the outcome was determined by a number of things.

“We just didn’t make enough great plays,” he explained. “There was a lot of slippage.”

Missed layups and a 26-15 rebounding disadvantage in the second half when the Utes got in foul trouble were among the things Krystkowiak pointed out.

“There were a lot of things,” he said. “They had some guys that made some great plays, and if you’re going to compete against a top team in the country like that, we’ve got to be a lot better.”

Krystkowiak credited the Wildcats for being a “heckuva team” and noted that offense is not easy against them.

Utah shot 30.6 percent from the field. Wright and Jordan Loveridge (10) were the only scorers in double-figures. Bachynski and Taylor finished with eight apiece.

Kaleb Tarczewski, Stanley Johnson, York and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson combined for 47 of Arizona’s points. The Wildcats shot just 33.3 percent from the field. They grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, though, and outscored the Utes 16-6 in second-chance points.

“Our guys never really broke. I thought that when they went up six points midway through the second half that was a crucial time for us. We really responded. We stayed with it,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller. “We played great defense, we rebounded and stayed with it. We had a couple of shots that we needed to make, point-blank shots. To be able to win in this type of atmosphere and against a team as good as Utah, however you do it, is a good job.”

Arizona reeled off nine straight points to break an 8-8 tie midway through the first half. The Utes were held scoreless for 5:50 during the stretch, missing five shots and turning the ball over multiple times as the Wildcats pulled away.

Before the drought ended — on a 3-pointer by Jordan Loveridge with 8:31 remaining in the half — Utah had made just 3-of-15 shots from the field.

Loveridge’s long-distance connection, though, proved to be a breakthrough. The Utes’ next three makes came from beyond the arc. Brekkott Chapman hit two 3-pointers and Wright followed with one to usher in a 14-4 run that erased the deficit. Bachysnki scored the go-ahead basket on a layup to make it 22-21.

Utah held an advantage four other times over the 4:04 that remained, but Arizona pulled even on three occasions and wound up regaining the lead on a pair of free throws by Elliott Pitts with 1.8 seconds left.

Although the Utes trailed 29-28 at halftime, they held a 20-18 rebounding edge — pulling down one more board than they had in the entire game when the teams met Jan. 17 in Tucson. Arizona prevailed that day 69-51, handing Utah its most lopsided loss of the season.

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