TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Utah jumped on Arizona early and was able to hang with the nation’s top-ranked team well into the second half.
But as the game wore on, the Utes, like so many teams this season, wore down and were unable to keep up with the Wildcats.
Utah led by 10 in the first half Sunday night, but faded down the stretch in a 65-56 loss to Arizona, which set a school record with its 20th straight win.
“To use a football analogy, it’s a team that runs the ball,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “They grind on you and grind on you and eventually the defense gets tired of being on the field at the end of the game. There’s a lot to be said for the way they play.”
Unlike its previous game against Colorado, Arizona (20-0, 7-0 Pac-12) struggled early, falling into an early 10-point hole as the Wildcats struggled to figure out Utah’s various defenses.
The Wildcats eventually managed to decipher what the Utes were doing and wore them down with relentless defensive pressure and a dominating performance on the glass.
Arizona shot 3 of 14 from 3-point range and 40 percent overall, but made up for it with 20 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points. The Wildcats had a 40-29 rebounding advantage overall and outscored Utah 38-24 in the paint.
Nick Johnson had 22 points, hitting some big shots down the stretch to help Arizona pull away.
Aaron Gordon scored 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting, but had seven of his 12 rebounds on the offensive glass and blocked two shots, including one during Arizona’s decisive run.
Fellow freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson also provided a lift with his hustle, scoring 10 points while grabbing five of his seven rebounds on the offensive end.
No, it wasn’t easy, but the Wildcats pulled it out just like they have all season for the longest winning streak in the history of the storied program.
“To set a record at Arizona, it’s so meaningful because of the history here,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “It’s special.”
Utah (14-6, 3-5) jumped out to an early lead and kept it close before wearing down in the closing minutes, unable to keep the athletic Wildcats off the glass or from scoring inside to remain winless on the road.
Delon Wright led Utah 19 points and Jordan Loveridge added 13 on 3-of-14 shooting.
“They were killing us on offensive rebounds,” Wright said. “We didn’t give them enough body to get the rebounds and we couldn’t score. I’m not sure what happened.”