SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah men's basketball team had its way with fourth-ranked Arizona at home Thursday night, dominating the Wildcats 81-66 inside the Jon M. Huntsman Center for its first victory over an AP-ranked opponent since 2019 and first under the direction of second-year head coach Craig Smith.
The Runnin' Utes didn't shy away against the No. 4 team in the country, jumping out to an early 12-7 lead and holding on to a single-digit lead (22-16) heading into the 7:29 mark. From there, a 6-0 run pushed the Utah lead to 28-16 and forced an Arizona timeout (6:06) but it was too little too late with the Utes (6-2, 1-0 Pac-12) taking advantage of its momentum to extend its lead.
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Shortly thereafter, a baseline two-handed jam from Ben Carlson got the Ute faithful on their feet before Keba Keita sent Courtney Ramey's attempt into the stands. Utah finished the final 5:13 minutes of action knocking down 6-of-9 from the field and took a 42-25 lead into the break.
Arizona (6-1, 0-1 Pac-12) did not back down whatsoever and came out of the locker room poised with an 18-7 run to cut it within 49-43 after a pair of free throws from Pelle Larson with 14:06 to go. However, the Runnin' Utes were determined and answered right back like a heavyweight bout with a 21-7 spurt to go up 70-50 with just 7:34 remaining.
Branden Carlson made it rain from three Thursday night, hitting a career-high 5-of-9 from deep for 22 points, five rebounds and a pair of blocks. Worster finished with a game-high 37 minutes and was just shy of a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for his first-career double-double. Gabe Madsen and Ben Carlson each chipped in with 11 points as well. Keita had a fantastic game in his young career, posting seven points with 11 rebounds — five offensive — off the bench for Utah. Meanwhile, Marco Anthony added six points and nine rebounds on the night.
KEBA KEITA‼️‼️ 🔨🔨 pic.twitter.com/dMzKQjmA8c— Utah Basketball (@UtahMBB) December 2, 2022
BY THE NUMBERS
The 42-25 lead was Utah's largest against any top-5 AP ranked opponent at the half on record since 1996-97 … Utes were previously 0-6 against ranked opponents under Smith … the win was also Smith's highest against an AP ranked opponent since defeating #5 San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship game in 2020 … the win was Utah's first against a top-5 opponent since defeating top-ranked Alabama at home 51-49 … Utah is now 2-4 all-time vs. #4 AP ranked opponents, the first came against Cincinnati on Jan. 1, 1964, 76-68 … it was also Utah's first win vs. an AP ranked opponent at home since defeating #25 USC 86-64 on Jan. 12, 2017.
The Utes close out their two early Pac-12 Conference games on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. (MT) on the Palouse against Washington State. Eric Rothman and former Gonzaga Bulldog Dan Dickau will have the call between the Runnin' Utes and Cougars on ESPNU.
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