Top-ranked Wildcats take on Utes in Pac-12 affair

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Updated: 1/26 10:57 am

Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Looking to continue to build on the best start in school history, the top-ranked Arizona Wildcats welcome the Utah Utes to the McKale Center on Sunday evening for a Pac-12 showdown.

Sean Miller's Wildcats are a perfect 19-0 on the season, earning their spot atop the national rankings. Pac-12 play has done nothing to slow down Arizona, which moved to 6-0 in the league with Thursday's 69-57 win over Colorado.

Larry Krystkowiak's Utes are a dangerous team at 14-5 overall. However, it has been a tale of two seasons for Utah, which has earned all its victories at home, while still in search of its first road win of the year. Conference play has proved to be extremely challenging as well with Utah sitting at 3-4 following Thursday's 79-75 road loss at Arizona State.

Utah holds a 28-25 lead in the all-time series with Arizona, but the Wildcats have closed the gaps with wins in the last seven meetings.

The Utes held a one-point lead with just over seven minutes to play in Tempe on Thursday, but Arizona State took the lead not long after that and never relinquished it in the tight affair. Utah shot the ball well, converting 47.3 percent from the floor, but ASU was a little better (53.1 percent), while outscoring the Utes 21-15 at the free-throw line. The loss spoiled strong performances by Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright, who posted 22 and 21 points, respectively.

Efficient play at the offensive end has been a strength of the Utah attack this season, with the team ranking among the nation's best in field-goal percentage (.508), leading to a healthy 80.7 ppg. The defensive effort hasn't been bad either, with foes netting a mere 62.1 ppg and being held under 40 percent shooting (.399). Loveridge and Wright have been an impressive one-two punch all season long, averaging 16.7 and 15.9 ppg, respectively. Loveridge is tops on the team in rebounding with 8.1 rpg. Wright isn't far behind (7.2 rpg), is first in assists (5.1 apg) and steals (2.7 per game) and is in the top 20 nationally in field-goal percentage at .615. Brandon Taylor rounds out the top offensive threats on the roster with 10.5 ppg.

The Buffaloes were at a disadvantage without leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie in the lineup and the Wildcats made them pay, jumping out to an early 14point lead and then cruising to the victory to remain unbeaten on the season. Arizona shot a solid .492 in the game, while limiting Colorado to just .385 efficiency. Nick Johnson led three Wildcats in double figures with 18 points. Brandon Ashley added 15 to the cause, while Aaron Gordon finished with 12.

Boasting a +18.8 scoring average, it is clear that Arizona can get the job done at either end of the floor. The team is shooting just under 50 percent from the floor (.491) and averaging 75.5 ppg, while playing shutdown defense, ranking fourth nationally in scoring defense (56.7 ppg) and third in field- goal percentage defense (.370). The team also ranks fifth nationally in rebounding margin (+10.1). Johnson headlines the play in the backcourt, with a team-high 16.4 ppg. He is joined by T.J. McConnell, who isn't much of a scorer (7.1 ppg), but does rank third in the Pac-12 in assists (6.1 apg). The frontcourt is both big and athletic, with forwards in Gordon (12.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Ashley (12.2 ppg. 6.1 rpg) playing alongside center Kaleb Tarczewski (9.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg).

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