The Arizona Wildcats received proof yet again today that they can't take anybody for granted.
Not even lowly Utah. At home.
The Wildcats, coming off three big wins that put them back in the hunt for a Pac-12 title and an NCAA tournament berth, fell behind Utah by 13 early and didn't pull away for a 70-61 win over the undermanned Utes until the final minutes.
Jesse Perry hit four free throws in the final 29 seconds, and Nick Johnson made another two with 0.1 seconds left, to win a game that was much closer than the final score indicated. The game was so harrowing for the Wildcats, in fact, that near-sellout crowd at McKale Center was on its feet nearly the entire time.
The win improved Arizona to 18-8 overall and 9-4 in the Pac-12, heading into a trip to play Washington State and Washington next week.
Utah dropped to 5-10 and 2-11.
Nick Johnson led the Wildcats with 18 points while Kyle Fogg, who came off the bench after he was late to a pregame walk-through, had 17. Brendon Lavender added 12 points by making 4 of 5 three pointers, three of which came during UA's game-changing 15-0 run in the second half.
Arizona went on the 15-0 run to take a 46-43 lead midway through the second half but, as is often the case with Arizona comebacks, the Wildcats could not continue streaking.
Instead, Utah reeled off seven straight points to take a 50-46 lead when Cedric Martin made a three-point play with 9:56 to go.
The teams traded threes often in the middle of the second half and Brendon Lavender's fourth three-pointer tied the game at 61 with four minutes left.
Johnson then hit one with 1:20 left to give Arizona a 64-61 lead and Utah lost the ball - and its chance to stay in the game -- on its next possession when Kareem Storey stepped on the baseline.
Earlier, Storey hit a three-pointer to give the Utes a 56-53 lead with 7:02 left.
Lavender hit three threes during the 15-0 run, his last two capping the run and giving UA a 46-43 lead with 12:05 left, Arizona's first lead of the game.
The Wildcats engineered the run with better defense. On three particular Utah possessions, UA forced Javon Dawson to turn it over, earned the ball on an offensive foul by Chris Hines and, after Storey missed, Lavender hit his two three pointers at the end of the run.
The Utes started the half with a three-pointer by Cedric Martin and received a three from Chris Hines off a well-executed screen and a layup in traffic by Hines. They led 43-33 with 15:48 to go In the first half, the Wildcats fell behind by 13 points before trailing 33-25 to Utah at halftime at McKale Center game.
The Wildcats dug themselves an immediate hole. They made just one of their first 10 field goals and played shoddy defense against the lowly Utes.
Utah managed to take leads of up to 13 points three different times, the last 32-19 before UA made a late push in the final two minutes of the half.
Utah wound up shooting 54.5 percent for the half and made 4 of 5 three-pointers while Arizona shot just 33 percent overall and from three-point range.
Fogg wound up leading the Wildcats in scoring with 10 points. Dijon Farr had eight points and seven rebounds to lead Utah.
Fogg, who missed only the first three minutes of the game made a four-point play, drawing a foul on a three-pointer that cut Utah's lead to 28-19 with four minutes left, and UA later had a three-point play by Nick Johnson to make it 32-23.
Earlier, Farr and Chris Hines hit largely unguarded threes to put the Utes up 26-13 with 6:43 to go in first.
Fogg hit threes on back-to-back UA possessions to cut the Utah lead to 17-11 with 9:44 left.
Utah took a 10-2 lead after four minutes, prompting Sean Miller to call a timeout even before the first media timeout. Miller also loosened his tie up before the midway point of the first half.
Lavender started in Fogg's place but missed his only three-point attempt in the half.
Read more about Arizona men's basketball in Sunday's Arizona Daily Star.