While Arizona and Utah have been neck-and-neck all season, their first meeting was anything but evenly matched.
Shifting the series to Salt Lake City could make all the difference.
The seventh-ranked Wildcats try to clinch at least a share of the regular-season Pac-12 title Saturday night as they go for a 12th consecutive win over the 13th-ranked Utes, who are seeking their first unbeaten season at home in 10 years.
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Arizona (25-3, 13-2) enters with a one-game lead over Utah (22-5, 12-3) with three remaining, but coach Sean Miller’s group had a huge edge in a 69-51 rout at home Jan. 17. The Wildcats outrebounded the Utes 40-19, including 17-4 on the offensive glass, and held them to 39.0 percent shooting.
Arizona has outscored Utah by an average of 13.9 points during the winning streak, with its last defeat coming 76-51 in the regional finals of the 1998 NCAA tournament.
Another victory, however, could be hard to come by at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, where the Utes have gone 16-0 while outscoring opponents by 26.0 points per game. Utah hasn’t completed a perfect home season since finishing 16-0 in 2004-05, and it set a school record by winning all 17 games there in 1999-00.
The Utes are shooting a league-best 49.5 percent to rank sixth in the country, just ahead of Arizona’s mark of 49.1.
"It’s a surreal feeling because it’s all coming together now," guard Brandon Taylor said. "But it’s not a surprise. We put the work in and we worked our tails off in the summer time. It’s a good feeling to see the results we’re getting from putting all that work in."
Utah is coming off Thursday’s 83-41 rout of Arizona State, its Division I-leading 13th victory by 20 or more points. Leading scorer Delon Wright was one of eight players to score at least eight, finishing with 12 on 5 of 8 from the floor as the Utes shot 63.3 percent for their highest mark in league play.
Wright is averaging 14.2 points, while Taylor is Utah’s only other player in double figures with 10.5 per game.
"Guys have to look in the mirror and tell themselves they’re not going to score as many points if we want to win," said Wright, whose team has a 23.4-point margin of victory in Pac-12 play. "Guys have to sacrifice some points if we want to win as a team."
The Wildcats have won 11 of 12, including five straight by an average of 23.8 points. They cruised to an 82-54 victory at Colorado on Thursday while shooting a season-best 23 of 25 from the foul line.
"Our team has found its niche," reserve guard Gabe York said. "We’re all playing at a very high level. Our team is jelling together really well."
York and Kaleb Tarczewski scored 14 points apiece as Arizona was able to rest most of its key pieces ahead of Saturday’s showdown.
"We have not prepared for the next game at all, and rightfully so, because that’s how we always do it," Miller said. "Now that this game is over we forge ahead to Saturday."
Arizona is 3-0 against Top 25 opponents, though it barely got by then-No. 15 San Diego State 61-59 on Nov. 26 and then-No. 9 Gonzaga 66-63 in overtime Dec. 6.
The Utes are 1-3 in such games, with the victory coming 69-68 in OT over then-No. 8 Wichita State at home Dec. 3.