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Kerr Kriisa’s triple-double carries Arizona men’s basketball past Utah

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Kerr Kriisa’s college career began at Utah’s Huntsman Center a year ago. At the same arena Thursday night, he elevated his place in Arizona lore to new heights.

Kriisa made seven first half 3-pointers en route to a triple-double, going for 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as Arizona put away Utah 97-77 in Salt Lake City.

The second-ranked Wildcats (25-2, 15-1) can clinch at least a share of the Pac-12 title with a win against Colorado Saturday, while a win and a USC loss at Oregon—which beat UCLA on Thursday—would given them the outright title.

Arizona received a game-high 23 points from Azuolas Tubelis on 8-of-12 shooting, 14 points from Benn Mathurin and a career-high 14 points from Dalen Terry.

Kriisa became the first Arizona player since Andre Iguodala (2004) to record a triple-double and he is the first Division I player in at least 12 seasons to post a triple-double with seven 3-pointers.

Kriisa’s seven first half triple treys tie the school record for most 3-pointers in a half (Jemarl Baker in 2020 and Gabe York in 2016).

The game’s biggest drama came in the final moments as Kriisa looked to secure a 10th rebound to give him a triple-double. Coach Tommy Lloyd initially pulled Kriisa with about three minutes to go but subbed him back in at the 1:57 mark.

Lloyd said after the game that he wanted to give Kriisa a shot at the triple-double because Thursday was Estonian Independence Day.

Arizona held a double-digit lead over Utah for most of the night thanks to the scoring contributions of UA’s starting five, who accounted for 84 of the team’s 97 points.

At halftime the Wildcats led 53-33, and Utah never significantly cut into that margin in the second half.

Tubelis went 7 of 7 from the free throw line and was the only Arizona player to attempt more than two foul shots.

If the Wildcats showed any regression Thursday, it was taking care of the ball. After committing only two turnovers in the first half, they coughed up 14 over the final 20 minutes.

UA shot 53.6 percent from the field while holding Utah to 40.3 percent shooting. The Wildcats connected on 12 of 28 3-pointers.

From the opening tip, it was clear Utah wouldn’t have much home court advantage despite road teams often facing trouble playing at high elevation.

Arizona opened the game with an 8-0 run, followed by a 7-0 run from Utah.

Terry and Tubelis accounted for 13 of UA’s first 15 points, but the Wildcats as a team struggled to find a scoring rhythm for much of the first half.

Arizona led 27-22 with 7:44 remaining in the half when Utah went on a 6-0 run over the next 60 seconds to take its first lead of the game.

Then Kriisa took over.

Arizona’s fiery point guard went red hot to end close out the half, knocking down five of his seven 3-pointers over a span of 6:12.

Kriisa and Mathurin combined for back-to-back-to-back 3s to turn Utah’s one point advantage into an eight point deficit for the home team. With Arizona leading 42-30 at the two-minute mark, Kriisa made 3s on consecutive possession to put the Wildcats ahead 18.

Kriisa’s last 3-pointer of the half came on a mid-court buzzer that sent the Utes to the locker room in silence.

Despite being two 3-pointers shy of the program single game record, Kriisa chose not to shoot any in the second half, instead getting his teammates involved. While Kriisa didn’t walk out of Utah with a new shooting record, his triple-double will be remembered for a long time to come.