TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Dusan Ristic scored 23 points and made all three of his 3-point attempts, including a key one in the final two minutes, helping No. 11 Arizona hold off Utah 74-73 on Saturday.
Arizona (18-4, 8-1 Pac-12) had a four-point lead after Ristic hit two free throws, but Utah’s Justin Bibbins hit a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds to pull Utah within one. Arizona’s Allonzo Trier was called for an offensive foul before the ball was inbounded and Utah got the ball inside to Donnie Tillman, who was unable to hit a contested shot.
Arizona’s Keanu Pinder missed a free throw with 0.3 seconds left and David Collette was well short on a desperation shot from the opposite free throw line.
Arizona, playing without sophomore guard Rawle Alkins for the third time in four games, jumped on Utah early to build a 13-point lead. The Wildcats stayed firmly in front until a nearly four-minute scoreless stretch allowed the Utes to climb back in it.
Arizona turned to an unlikely source to stem Utah’s rush, with Ristic hitting a challenged 3-pointer with 1:40 left. The 7-footer was 0 for 5 from the arc heading into Saturday’s game.
Trier added 16 points before fouling out and the Pac-12-leading Wildcats shot 64 percent to win their sixth straight game.
Utah (12-9, 4-5) fought back from its early hole against the hot-shooting Wildcats before rallying to lead with a 12-0 run. Sedrick Barefield led the Utes back, scoring 26 points.
Utah avenged an earlier loss on Thursday by knocking off No. 21 Arizona State. Barefield hit a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left and the Utes didn’t miss a shot in overtime in the 80-77 victory.
Arizona won the first meeting with Utah 94-82 in Salt Lake City on Jan. 4. Alkins had 22 points in that one but missed his second straight game with a sore right foot. He missed Arizona’s first nine games after having surgery for a stress fracture in the foot.
The Wildcats didn’t seem to miss their emotional leader, jumping on the Utes from the start.
Sharp at both ends, Arizona opened the game on a 14-4 run while hitting its first six shots and made nearly every Utah possession a struggle.
The Utes gathered themselves after the early Arizona onslaught and quieted the rowdy McKale Center crowd — at least a little — with a 9-0 run to pull within 31-27 late in the first half.
Arizona kept hitting shots, though, and held Utah scoreless over the final 4:35 to lead 43-33 at halftime. The Wildcats went 16 for 23 from the floor, including 7 of 9 from the 3-point arc.
The Utes started making shots again in the second half. So did Arizona, keeping the lead to at least 7.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Trier each picked up fouls, giving Utah an opportunity.
The Utes took advantage even as Arizona coach Sean Miller rotated both players back in, scoring 12 straight points to take a 66-65 lead with 5 ½ minutes left.
Utah got only a desert split, but beating one ranked team and losing to another in one of the nation’s toughest road environments is a solid trip.
Arizona keeps finding ways to win, is firmly in control of the Pac-12 lead and could move up in Monday’s AP Top 25.
Utah plays at Colorado on Friday.
Arizona has its Washington swing next week, starting with Washington State on Thursday.