More of the same
Utah has made a habit this season of playing well against the Pac-12's best teams and often getting beaten badly by teams in the lower half of the league.
The Utes had close losses to ASU, UA and UCLA to start league play - then were blown out at home by USC just before Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill was fired.
The Utes also lost at WSU but beat Washington in Seattle, were blown out by Stanford, and yet beat Colorado. In Oregon, they were blown out at OSU but played Oregon close.
"It's been remarkable, really," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said before Sunday's game … when the trend continued.
The Utes trailed by 13 points early in the second half to UA and played down to the wire against a ranked team, almost pulling off a second straight Pac-12 win for the first time this season.
"Obviously, it would have meant a great deal," Utah center Jason Washburn said. "After coming off the big win against ASU (on Wednesday), to beat the No. 9 team in the country would have been big. … We came back but just came up short."
Utah held a "Salute America" promotion Sunday, allowing all military and first responders to order up to six free tickets each.
The Utah players had the word "FREEDOM" on the backs of their jerseys instead of their names, and miniature American flags were given out on the concourse.
The Utes held special ceremonies honoring military, and asked all military and first responders to stand up for an ovation in the second half.
For the first time in Pac-12 play, the Wildcats actually took a full day off from practices on a road trip. UA did not practice Friday after arriving from Colorado early that morning, but instead held study hall and meetings while getting the evening free.
Even though they normally eat all road meals in hotel ballrooms, the Wildcats were also treated to a dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse Friday night.
The day off "kept our legs a little more fresh," guard Mark Lyons said. "Just went to the steakhouse and bonded as a team. That's it."
UA athletic director Greg Byrne trudged to Boulder, Colo., to watch the Wildcats get beaten badly at Colorado, but returned to Tucson on Friday to take part in the baseball team's celebration of its College World Series title.
"It was awesome," Byrne said.
Byrne then rejoined the basketball team in Salt Lake City on Saturday. He attended an alumni function featuring UA president Ann Weaver Hart, who was also on hand for Sunday's game.
Hangover at Coors?
In the world of basketball psychology, maybe ASU's win over Colorado on Saturday was no big surprise.
The Buffaloes had just beaten UA in an emotional game two days earlier at Coors Events Center.
"It's not easy when you do that, to be ready 48 hours later," UA coach Sean Miller said. "There are a lot of teams who have that incredible high and all of a sudden that next game's upon you and it's not easy to switch gears and be at that same level. No question we took Colorado's best shot. They played great, and their crowd was terrific. But Arizona State - it was a terrific win for them."
"Utah is as improved a basketball program as any in the country, when you consider where they would have been at this time a year ago and maybe where they were earlier this year. I don't know if any team in the country relishes the opportunity to come in and play them at home."
The big number
UA's three-point shooting percentage in its high-altitude games at Utah and Colorado this week.