SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Brandon Taylor swished a 3-pointer over the outstretched hand of an Arizona defender and the Huntsman Center was rocking like it did in Utah’s glory years.
Taylor gave his team a 57-55 lead with 1:57 to play and the 13th-ranked Utes just needed to hold on.
However, they didn’t score again and the seventh-ranked Wildcats took advantage of some critical errors to clinch at least a share of the Pac-12 championship with a 63-57 win over Utah on Saturday night.
Gabe York drew Jakob Poeltl’s fifth foul and made one free throw and then made a key follow shot to give the Wildcats a 58-57 lead with 1:39 to play.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who had 10 points, made 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute and York hit two more to clinch the Wildcats’ 12th straight win over Utah (22-6, 12-4).
“It was a great college game,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “I felt like we could win this ball game. We just didn’t make enough great plays.”
Delon Wright, who led the Utes with 17 points, said: “I’m real disappointed. We had a shot at a Pac-12 title.”
The Wildcats’ victory certainly wasn’t easy and every player will probably be feeling the effects tomorrow.
“Playing Utah here, it’s not easy to score. They have great length, play hard and physical and great depth. The good news for us was it was a struggle for them to score too,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
Kaleb Tarczewski led Arizona (26-3, 14-2) with 13 points while Stanley Johnson had 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Wildcats now lead the conference standings by two games with two games remaining.
After dominating Utah 69-51 earlier in the season thanks to a big rebounding advantage, the Wildcats again bullied the Utes on the boards, 44-35, to overcome 33-percent shooting.
“Getting out rebounded in the second half when we got in foul trouble was a problem for us,” Krystkowiak said. “We ended up having to play small and then were out rebounded by (nine) here in our home court.”
Jordan Loveridge scored 10 before fouling out and Dallin Bachynski had eight as the Utes finished the season 16-1 at home.
“They are one of the toughest teams in the country. They play real good defense, they are top-10 team all around and just do a real great job,” said Wright, who didn’t score the final 9:46 of the game.
Taylor, Utah’s second-leading scorer, got his first points of the game on a 3-pointer to put the Utes up 47-41, with 8:11 remaining and the sellout crowd was roaring.
“We were up six and it hurts to know we let it slip through our fingers,” Bachynski said. “We will learn from it and have a good practice next week. We need to move forward.”
York hit a 3 and Hollis-Jefferson dunked to draw within one point again. It was back-and-forth from there as the game had seven lead changes in the final 6:53.
“Our guys never really broke,” Miller said. “I thought that when they went up six points midway through the second half that was a crucial time for us. We really responded. . 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.”
The Wildcats missed their first 10 field goal attempts of the second half before Johnson stole the ball and made a layup.
Hours after the Utes beat Arizona State 83-41 on Thursday, Utah students began erecting a tent village around the Huntsman Center in an effort to get the best seats.
The buzz for a college basketball game in Salt Lake City hadn’t been this intense since the 1996 New Year’s Eve matchup between No. 7 Utah and No. 2 Wake Forest, when future No. 1 NBA draft pick Tim Duncan scored 23 points and future No. 2 pick Keith Van Horn tallied 24 in the Deacons’ 70-59 win.
Arizona jumped out to a 17-8 lead but the Utes fought back and took a short lead before the half ended with Arizona ahead 29-28. The teams were whistled for a combined 25 fouls in the half and 46 for the game.
Arizona: Early in the second half, the officials took an extended break and then called a contact technical foul on Tarczewski for an elbow to Bachynski’s chin. … The Wildcats had only seven assists but made 27 of 37 free throws. … Johnson shot just 3 for 19 but had eight offensive rebounds and gave the Wildcats numerous second chances.
Utah: Brekkott Chapman, who played just 16 minutes and had six points, fouled out with 5:18 to play. … Poeltl only played 12 minutes before fouling out. … Utah shot 30.9 percent from the field. … The Utes are 1-4 against Top-25 opponents, with the lonevictory coming 69-68 in OT over then-No. 8 Wichita State at home on Dec. 3.
TOUGH SAYING GOODBYE
Wright and Bachynski played their last game in the Huntsman Center and received standing ovations during pregame presentations. They couldn’t hide their disappointment after the loss. “The students have been camping out for days and I wish we could have won,” Wright said.
Arizona: Hosts California on Thursday.
Utah: At Washington State on Thursday.
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