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Runnin’ Utes Split in Arizona; NCAA Tournament Hopes Still Alive

The Runnin’ Utes did what we thought they needed to do to keep their tournament hopes alive.  That’s to split on the road in the valley of the sun.  The Utes beat #21 Arizona State in overtime, 80-77.  Sedrick Barefield lifted the Utes to a road upset with 17 points off the bench.  Tra Holder was the only standout for the Sun Devils with 23 points.  The Utes lost Justin Bibbins after he fouled out late in regulation but the Utes prevailed without him.  If you missed the game, check out the highlights here:

 

The Utes next test was even bigger and that was against the Arizona Wildcats at the McKale Center.  Arizona is red hot and is a top 15 team in the country with a freshman who is a top three pick in the upcoming NBA draft in Deandre Ayton.  The Utes were within arms length of the Wildcats basically the whole game.  It came down to an offensive foul that Justin Bibbins created and the Utes got the ball back.  In-bounded the ball on the baseline to freshman Donnie Tillman under the rim who was bumped by former Wasatch Academy big man Emmanuel Akot.  No foul was called and the Wildcats got the ball off the miss and sealed the win.  Utah got another great performance from Sedrick Barefield who scored 26 points.  Arizona’s leading scorer was the last person we all thought would lead the team in scoring… Dusan Ristic scored 23 points, including 3 of 3 from downtown.  Entering the game, he was 0 for 5 for the season.  Go figure.  If you missed the wild ending or any of the game, here is the highlights.

Here is the second half highlights.

What’s next for the Utes?  On paper, it should get easier.  They have 8 conference games left.  3 of those are on the road.  As of right now, the Utes are in 6th place in the Pac-12 with a 5-5 record (13-8 overall).  They are on the road at Colorado (4-6, 9th in conference) on February 2nd, home against Stanford (5-4, 5th place), Cal (1-8, last) on February 8th and 10th.  Then they will play their final road trip of the regular season in Washington against the Huskies (5-3, 3rd) on the 15th and Washington State (1-7, 11th) on the 17th.  Then the Utes will play their final 3 games at the Huntsman Center on the 22nd against UCLA (6-4, 4th), USC (8-2, 2nd) on the 24th and Colorado on the 3rd of March.

If Utah wants to stay in the tournament conversation, they need to beat the bottom teams in the league in Cal and Washington State but they need more quality wins on their resume.  Beating Stanford, USC, UCLA and Washington would be huge.  USC is a big one.  Doesn’t mean they will make the tournament if they win 6 of their last 8 but it will definitely put them in the conversation of a bubble team.


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