SALT LAKE CITY — Utah never held a lead in its 94-82 loss to 14th-ranked Arizona Thursday night in the Huntsman Center. The Utes, in fact, trailed for just under 38 minutes. At one point, they were down by 17 points.
Even so, Utah managed to tie the game three times in the final 6:07. The final knotting of the score came on a pair of free throws by David Collette with 3:45 to go.
The Utes were then outscored 17-5 the rest of the way.
“We answered a number of runs that Utah made against us. Utah is a good basketball team,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller. “We didn’t come in here and expect to blow them out. We expected a hard-fought game.”
Deandre Ayton, a 7-foot-1 freshman, led the Wildcats (12-3, 2-0) to victory. The projected No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. The latter helped Arizona finish with a commanding 46-23 advantage on the boards.
Utah’s top rebounder was Donnie Tillman, The 6-foot-7, 225-pound freshman pulled down six in his return to action after missing four games with a foot injury. He did so in 19 minutes.
“Without having a lot of time to practice and a lot of time to beef up in the weight room, if you don’t look like Donnie Tillman you better start taking on a mentality like Donnie Tillman,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “Regardless of how big your body is you better go start putting it on somebody because we can’t keep getting pounded on the glass.”
Krystkowiak added that it has to be a mental deal.
“Maybe we can take a page out of the way Donnie plays and everybody can take a little bit of that,” he said.
Costly turnovers, missed blockouts and transition play were other shortcomings Krystkowiak identified in the setback. Arizona’s size was difficult to handle as well. The Wildcats outscored the Utes 44-26 in the paint and had 23 second-chance points.
On the positive side, junior guard Sedrick Barefield made six 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 23 points for the Utes.
“It was great. That’s why we got back in the game,” Krystkowiak said. “He had his stroke going. He’s been shooting it well in practice.”
Barefield, who was joined in double-figure scoring by teammates Collette (19), Tyler Rawson (16) and Justin Bibbins (14), noted that the Utes are a confident group. They remained so even when trailing 31-14 in the first half to Arizona.
“Obviously we don’t want to start like that,” Barefield said. “But we know what we’re capable of and we know that we’re capable of winning any game we come in to.”
EXTRA STUFF: Bibbins had a game-high eight assists. Barefield finished with six . . . Tillman made three steals . . . Utah shot 51.7 percent in the second half and just 36.7 percent in the first. The Utes were 9 of 14 from 3-point range after the break . . . The Utes host fourth-ranked Arizona State (12-2, 0-2) Sunday night. The Sun Devils were upset 90-81 in overtime at Colorado on Thursday,
No. 4 Arizona State (12-2, 0-2) at Utah (10-4, 2-1)
Sunday, 6 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM