- Associated Press - Thursday, January 5, 2017

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Arizona has not had its expected go-to player all season, lost a potential key contributor before the first game and at one point had seven scholarship players available.

The Wildcats are still long and a handful to deal with, even for a team with a big front line like Utah.

Dusan Ristic scored 18 points, Lauri Markkanen added 11 and No. 17 Arizona wore down the Utes for a 66-56 victory Thursday night.

“They brought a lot of guys who are big and physical, and I don’t think we were quite ready for that,” Utah forward David Collette said.

Arizona (14-2, 3-0 Pac-12) did not exactly play crisp, at times having lapses at both ends. The Wildcats used their size as an advantage, outrebounding one of the nation’s best teams by 11 and getting the Utes into foul trouble.

The Wildcats held Utah (10-4, 1-1) to a long scoreless drought in the first half and pushed back each time the Utes tried to make a run to win their 14th straight home game.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright led the offense despite taking just five shots, finishing with nine assists and no turnovers while controlling Arizona’s offense much of the night in his third game back from a sprained ankle.

“With Parker coming back, we have a new dimension to our game,” Ristic said. “We move the ball much better. It felt like he had 15 assists.”

The Utes got off to a great start and made several runs as Arizona tried to pull away. Utah had a hard time making it all the way back with Collette in foul trouble and the perimeter shots not falling.

Collette scored 13 points despite battling foul trouble most of the game, Devon Daniels added 12 and the Utes finished 4 for 21 from 3-point range to lose their seventh straight at McKale Center.

“We went on a dry spell and you can only defend them for so long,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “That’s when the lead expanded, but we’re growing, we’re getting better.”

Utah wanted to exploit Arizona’s interior defense and did just that early, hitting seven of its first eight shots to go up five points. Then Collette went to the bench with his second foul midway through and the shots stopped falling, leading to a scoreless streak that stretched nearly 7 minutes.

Collette remained on the bench and Utah went 6 for 17 the rest of the half.

Jackson-Cartwright was key to Arizona breaking Utah’s zone in the first half, dribbling through defenders and setting up teammates with pinpoint passes. He had seven assists and no turnovers by halftime, his only basket a runner at the buzzer that put the Wildcats up 35-27.

“It was mostly luck,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “Time was winding down and I was in the open floor, I looked up at the clock and just let it go.”

The Utes clawed their way back in the second half, pulling within 51-43 despite Collette going to the bench with his third foul midway through.

Collette got his fourth foul with about 6 minutes left and his backup, Jayce Johnson, fouled out right after that. Arizona began to stretch the lead from there, pushing it to 11 with just over a minute left.

BIG PICTURE

Utah started strong and fought its way back a couple of times, but can’t afford its big men to get into foul trouble, particularly with a big team like Arizona.

The Wildcats were far from perfect, but found a way to win yet another game despite a depleted roster.

REBOUNDING WILDCATS

Utah entered Thursday’s game with the Pac-12’s best rebounding differential at plus-10.1 per game. Rebounding was a point of emphasis for Arizona and the Wildcats had a 21-rebound advantage by halftime and 38-27 overall.

KUZMA’S NIGHT

Utah’s Kyle Kuzma had a solid return after missing two games with an ankle injury, scoring 14 points against Stanford. He was never able to get into a rhythm against Arizona’s attacking defense and missed a few shots badly, finishing with eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.

UP NEXT

Utah plays at Arizona State on Saturday before hosting No. 5 UCLA and No. 25 USC next week.

Arizona hosts Colorado on Saturday before playing rival Arizona State on Jan. 12.

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More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25.

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