Arizona, in its seventh straight week atop the rankings, is one win shy of posting the longest winning streak in school history.
Given the Wildcats’ particularly strong play at home, they’ll be heavy favorites Sunday night against a Utah squad still searching for its first road win.
Top-ranked Arizona (19-0, 6-0 Pac-12) matched its previous record of 19 straight victories with Thursday’s 69-57 home win over Colorado. The Wildcats raced to an 18-4 edge within six minutes, playing for the first time since a 23-point victory against Arizona State a week earlier, but weren’t able to fully pull away as they were outscored 33-30 in the second half.
"Our second half maybe wasn’t as good as our first, but there are always good lessons to be learned from that and still leave with the win," coach Sean Miller said.
Nick Johnson scored 18, though he was 0 for 3 from beyond the arc as the team went 3 of 15. Johnson struggled as Arizona swept the season series from Utah by a combined seven points in 2012-13, totaling 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
While the Wildcats weren’t dominant offensively against Colorado, they held the Buffaloes to 38.5 percent shooting. They’ve won 16 in a row and 60 of their last 66 at the McKale Center. They’ve won 13 there this season by an average of 24.0 points while limiting opponents to 53.2 points per game and 35.0 percent shooting.
Freshman Aaron Gordon is averaging 15.3 points and shooting 60.0 percent over his last three home contests.
Utah (14-5, 3-4) has dropped seven in a row to Arizona, last knocking off the Wildcats to reach the 1998 Final Four. The Utes’ five losses have come by just 13 points, but facing Arizona’s challenging defense doesn’t bode well considering their offensive troubles away from home.
Utah is averaging 61.3 points while shooting 42.4 percent from the field while going 0-4 on the road, compared to an 85.9 average on 52.8 percent shooting in 15 home contests.
The Utes also surrendered a season-high point total in Thursday’s 79-75 loss at Arizona State. They’ve allowed their last three opponents to shoot 43.2 percent from 3-point range after previously limiting teams to 27.2 percent.
Delon Wright is one of the nation’s most efficient guards, shooting 61.5 percent from the field and averaging 15.9 points. He’s coming off his worst shooting performance of the season, though making 6 of 15 shots while scoring 21 points.
Forward Jordan Loveridge, who had 22, will face a tough task against a particularly stingy Arizona defense on the interior. Teams are shooting only 40.0 percent against the Wildcats from inside the arc.
Loveridge had 17 points in a 60-57 loss at Arizona on Jan. 5, 2013, then was just 1 for 9 with five points in the second meeting, a 68-64 home setback on Feb. 17.
Should the teams play another closely contested game, Utah could enjoy a healthy advantage at the free-throw line. The Utes are shooting 74.9 percent from the charity stripe while Arizona hits just 66.7 percent of its foul shots.
Utah leads the all-time series 28-25.