Utah manhandles No. 4 Arizona in Pac-12 opener

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Branden Carlson scored 22 points, Rollie Worster nearly had a triple-double and the Utah defense stymied the nation’s highest-scoring team as the Utes shocked No. 4 Arizona 81-66 in the Pac-12 opener for both teams on Thursday in Salt Lake City.

Utah (6-2, 1-0 Pac-12) started fast, never trailed and mostly dared the Wildcats (6-1, 0-1) to shoot from long distance, where they struggled, going 4 of 28 from 3-point range. Arizona had been averaging a nation-leading 97.5 points per game.

Carlson, a 7-foot senior, had never made more than two 3-pointers in a game, but he went 5 of 9 from deep against Arizona. Worster had 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for Utah, which beat a ranked team for the first time since defeating No. 6 Kentucky on Dec. 18, 2019.

Arizona’s prolific post players hit their scoring averages, with Oumar Ballo going for 22 points and Azuolas Tubelis contributing 20, but the Wildcats didn’t have enough scoring help from the perimeter players to overcome a 17-point halftime deficit.

The Wildcats did come out with energy after the break, cutting their deficit to 49-43 with 14:06 left before Carlson halted their momentum with a key 3-point shot. The Utes regained their footing and built the lead up to 20, providing enough cushion to survive a late charge in which Arizona climbed within 73-64 at the 4:15 mark.

Gabe Madsen and Ben Carlson each scored 11 points for the Utes.

Arizona, which entered shooting a national-best 60.3 percent from the field, missed its first five shots and fell behind 10-2 when Branden Carlson hit his second 3-pointer at the 16:25 mark.

That set the tone for the rest of the half as the Wildcats struggled to solve the Utes’ defense, which challenged shots at the rim and clogged the lane. Arizona shot 27.3 percent (9 of 33) in the first half and committed 11 turnovers. Utah expanded its lead to 39-20 with 3:01 to go before taking a 42-25 advantage into halftime.

–Field Level Media

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