Men's basketball: Arizona 77, Utah 51: Wildcats mute Utes

Despite Hill's ejection UA easily shakes off Utah in second half
2012-01-20T00:00:00Z 2014-07-24T10:35:46Z Men's basketball: Arizona 77, Utah 51: Wildcats mute UtesBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 20, 2012 12:00 am  • 

SALT LAKE CITY - Bracing for another addition-by-subtraction from an opponent Thursday, the Arizona Wildcats instead stole the equation for themselves.

And, in a 77-51 win over Utah, they put the formula to good use.

The Utes went into Thursday's game without dismissed leading scorer Josh Watkins, causing concern for an Arizona team that was beaten two weeks ago by UCLA despite the absence of Bruins big man Josh Smith.

It has been UA coach Sean Miller's theory that teams suddenly missing a key player sometimes play better in the short term because of the urgency required, with the 34 combined points that UCLA big men Travis and David Wear scored against Arizona a prime example.

But it turned out that the Wildcats (13-6, 4-2 Pac-12) had to get along without leading scorer Solomon Hill for the final 18 minutes Thursday when Hill was ejected for a second-level flagrant foul on Utah's Cedric Martin.

Without Hill, the Wildcats immediately went on a 20-2 run to take a 55-34 lead midway through the second half, effectively ending an otherwise uneventful game played before about 6,000 fans at Huntsman Center.

Having distributed more minutes to forwards Kevin Parrom and Angelo Chol, Miller said the Wildcats were better without Hill. However, he also noted that Hill was less than effective anyway, before he appeared to land a forearm on the back of Martin's head.

Hill had five points on 1-for-7 shooting, with four rebounds, before he was tossed.

"Solomon wasn't playing well," Miller said. "It's not as if we lost him on a real good night. He wasn't having a good night. We're clearly a better team with him. But in that brief moment when he left, we answered like you'd want a team to answer."

The rest of the Wildcats were unable to explain the change. Miller did not let them speak with the media, saying he did not want to "put them in a bad situation" to speak of an incident they had not seen the replay of.

Miller said after the game that he had not seen a replay and therefore had no comment on it.

"Solomon's a good kid," Miller said. "The game's changed. An incident like that five years ago, there would be no monitor to go to. A few years back it would just be chalked up to physical play. We never want our players to be dirty in any way. So if that's what happened we'll deal with Solomon.

"I would like to think that it wasn't a malicious hit. But I have to see it first."

Hill's foul was deemed "flagrant two," meaning he was immediately disqualified and the Utes received two free throws. But unlike a fighting foul, it does not carry an accompanying suspension.

It is possible Miller might add his own discipline but he said he didn't think he would pending his review of the incident.

"We'll have to take a look at it," he said. "The safety of players and playing between the lines and executing and playing the way we want to do is what all coaches want their teams to do. If something else gets in the way, that's not a good thing."

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak did not express an opinion on the foul, focusing instead on the fact that his short-handed team let a one-point deficit late in the first half balloon to a 26-point loss.

"I don't think (our second-half play) was related to the altercation at all," Krystkowiak said. "I think it was related to our guys running out of gas.

"It is like a heavyweight fight. When it gets into the later rounds, you can only take so many punches. Our bench is a little thin right now. We need to get some guys to come in and have an impact."

Still, while relying on freshman Kareem Storey to take over point guard for Watkins and playing five players 25 minutes or more, the Utes (4-14, 1-5) were competitive early. Then again, the Wildcats were also sloppy and, Miller said, may have been a little tight after a week of concern about turnovers.

After Miller complained about turnovers notably in his news conference Tuesday - and presumably rode the Wildcats in practice for the same reason - they had six turnovers in the first half. Four were by freshman Nick Johnson.

"Sometimes when you emphasize it, guys play almost cautious," Miller said. "I thought Nick was like that at the beginning. But once he settled in it was good to see him play well."

But the Wildcats had just three turnovers in the second half and Miller said freshman point guard Josiah Turner ran the team well. Turner had just one turnover.

The Wildcats also received more help from Parrom, who scored 12 points with 3-for-5 three-point shooting, and had four rebounds in 19 minutes. He shared the team scoring lead with Kyle Fogg.

It was the first time Parrom has scored in double figures during Pac-12 play and the most points he's had all season other than his 13-point effort at Florida.

"Kevin Parrom really inserted himself, and did a real nice job in the game," Miller said. "He hit some timely threes and played with a lot of confidence."

Up next

• What: Arizona at Colorado

• When: 4 p.m. Saturday

• TV: FSAZ, Ch 58 (Ch 8 on Cox and Comcast)

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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