Looking to rebound after a loss on Wednesday night to Colorado, Arizona goes up against Utah Saturday morning (12:00 pm│ESPN). Utah is 22-7 on the season and 11-5 in Pac-12 play, good for second in the conference and is half a game ahead of Arizona. Utah demolished ASU 81-46 on Thursday night and had an astonishing 30-2 lead in the first half. With the unbalanced schedule, this is the only regular season meeting between the two teams.
Jakob Poeltl vs Kaleb Tarczewski – Poeltl is Utah’s best player and candidate for Pac-12 Player Of The Year as well as Wooden Player Of The Year. He is averaging 17.7 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting an astonishing 67% from the field. Before Thursday night’s blowout of ASU, Poeltl had been averaging 23 points, 10 rebounds and shooting 71% from the field in the previous four games and is one of the hottest players in college basketball. Tarczewski has been playing his best basketball in an Arizona uniform. He is playing with tremendous energy and emotion and has averaged 4.5 blocks the past two games. Tarczewski has been Arizona’s best defensive player and has bailed out the guards unable to contain dribble penetration. The big man matchup will be very interesting as Tarczewski is one of the few players in the nation capable of slowing down Poeltl.
Jordan Loveridge vs Allonzo Trier – Loveridge was on fire in the first half against ASU and made three 3 pointers en route to Utah leading ASU 30-2. With Poeltl playing so well down low, the perimeter has been open for Loveridge. He has made 12 out of his last 28 three pointers and averages six attempts a game. Trier is back to game shape and playing well after missing seven games with a broken hand. He is attacking the basket and showing no ill effects from the injury. Trier will need to close hard and disciplined on Loveridge and take away uncontested three pointers.
Brandon Taylor vs Parker Jackson-Cartwright – Taylor is a steady speedy guard and runs Utah’s offense smoothly. Being a senior, he has been through the ringer and plays with great poise. PJC was under the weather on Wednesday night and couldn’t keep up the terrific play from the past couple weeks. Hopefully PJC will feel better physically on Saturday morning as Arizona will need better point guard play to beat Utah.
Dusan Ristic made all three of his field goal attempts against Colorado but was out hustled for most of the game. He was unable to defend Josh Scott during a crucial portion of the second half and the Colorado big man repeatedly took Ristic off the dribble for easy layups.
Mark Tollefsen played 16 minutes against Colorado but was quiet and didn’t impact the game. I would like to see Tollefsen play more aggressively and look for his shot. When Ristic and Tollefsen are in the game against the opposing team’s reserves, Arizona should look to get them involved offensively.
What To Look For
Defensive Rebounding. Arizona gave up an uncharacteristic 14 offensive rebounds to Colorado with Wesley Gordon grabbing 7 himself. Before the game, Arizona was leading the nation in defensive rebounding, getting 80% of opponents misses.
Turnovers. Arizona had 11 turnovers against Colorado, but two of them were by their point guards Kadeem Allen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright down the stretch in fast break situations when trying to mount a comeback. They were momentum swings. Arizona will look to keep the number to 10 or less.
Outside Shooting. Against Colorado, Arizona only made 3 out of 11 three pointers with Gabe York going 1-4. Look for York to bounce back and have a better shooting performance against Utah.
Since joining the Pac-12, Utah has yet to beat Arizona and will look to snap that streak. Utah is a team surging down the stretch of the regular season and playing their best basketball. The Utes have won five games in a row and absolutely manhandled ASU on Thursday night. With only two games remaining on their schedule and both at home, Utah is primed to at least share their first regular season championship. Arizona needs to win to keep alive their hopes of a third consecutive conference title. This year’s team is a resilient group and plays its best with their backs against the wall, expect Arizona to come out with energy and intensity and a hotly contested game decided in the final minutes.
Allonzo Trier wore the Kobe 8 Christmas against ASU and the HyperLive Arizona PE against Colorado.