The Arizona Wildcats have set yet another school record, working through some early scares to beat Utah 65-56 tonight at McKale Center.
The top-ranked Wildcats improved to 20-0, reaching 20 straight victories over college teams for the first time in school history. Arizona is also 7-0 in the Pac-12 entering a trip to Stanford and California this week.
The Utes brought upgraded talent and ever-changing defenses tonight, after losing by only three points at McKale last season, and played UA to a 47-47 tie with just 10 minutes to go.
But the Wildcats went on a 14-2 run late in the second half to take control of the game.
Nick Johnson led the Wildcats in scoring with 22 points while Aaron Gordon had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Arizona outrebounded Utah 40-29 and had a season-high 20 offensive boards, leading to 19 second-chance points.
Delon Wright led Utah (14-6, 3-5) with 19 points.
The Wildcats and Utes went into the final 10 minutes tied at 47 but Arizona’s defense stiffened up considerably, holding Utah scoreless for three minutes while Arizona took a 51-47 lead with eight minutes to go.
Arizona had led by five points at halftime but Utah quickly wiped it away. The Utes rattled off six straight points early in the second run to pull within 33-32, then took a brief 37-36 lead on a layup from Jordan Loveridge with 16:12 left.
The Wildcats took a 45-39 lead with 12:36 left after Brandon Ashley hit two free throws but Kenneth Ogbe came back for a three-pointer to make it 45-42.
However, the Wildcats kept going, eventually making it a 14-2 run with rebound baskets from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Ashley, plus two scores inside from Johnson.
That made it 57-49 and a jumper from Johnson with 3:53 left made it 59-49. The Wildcats hung on from there.
In the first half, Arizona battled back from an early scare to take a 33-26 halftime lead.
The Wildcats struggled initially on the boards and in shooting but junior guard Johnson bailed them out partially with his 11 first-half points.
Arizona missed 10 of its first 11 shots while Utah built an early 12-2 lead by the time Delon Wright scored on a goaltending call against Gabe York, after having stolen the ball from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
But the Wildcats rattled off a 12-0 run, with the McKale Center crowd reaching a deafening level once Johnson hit a three-pointer to make it 12-7. The Wildcats pulled within 12-11 on a 18-footer by T.J. McConnell and then went ahead 14-12 with 8:06 left when Gabe York was fouled on a layup and converted the ensuing free throws.
The game remained close the rest of the half from there, while the Wildcats took a 31-26 halftime lead after Kaleb Tarczewski dunked in an offensive rebound at the buzzer.
Early in the game, Utah scored on its first three possessions and took a 7-2 lead at the first media timeout (15:42). At that point, UA was 1-5 from the field, while Aaron Gordon missed two free throws, and the Wildcats were being outrebounded 6-2.
UA had reached 19 straight wins two previous times: As defending national champions in 1997-98 and during the 1992-93 season. The Wildcats won 22 22 straight between the end of the 1913-14 season and the middle of the 1916-17 season, but that streak included mostly games against YMCA teams and Tucson High School.