It’s not how you look in a loss. It’s how you look after the loss.
Five days removed from a momentum-sapping setback at Stanford, Arizona responded like it has every time after a loss in the Tommy Lloyd era, handily beating Utah 88-62 on Thursday night at McKale Center.
The 8th-ranked Wildcats (23-4, 12-4 Pac-12) improved to 6-0 in revenge games under Lloyd, getting payback for a 15-point loss in Salt Lake City in December, and have won their seven regular-season post-defeat games by an average of 16.1 points with each victory by at least 11.
Arizona shot 56.9 percent overall and made 9 of 18 3-pointers, doing so against a Utah defense that came in ranked sixth nationally defending both the 2 and 3. The Utes hadn’t allowed more than 78 points in a game this season, a number the UA surpassed with 4:53 to go.
And that performance was with Azuolas Tubelis sitting most of the first half after getting two fouls, including a frustration technical. He rebounded in the second half to score all 11 of his points and finish a rebound shy of a double-double.
Kerr Kriisa led the Wildcats with 17 points, going 6 of 8 from the field and 4 of 4 from 3 and adding six assists, while Courtney Ramey had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists and Pelle Larsson added 11 off the bench.
Utah (17-10, 10-6) shot 32.2 percent and was outscored 38-10 in the paint after scoring 42 paint points in its 81-66 win over Arizona three months ago.
The UA led 43-31 at the break, holding Utah to 30 percent shooting in the first while shooting 58.1 percent itself. There was no lull to start the second half, as a 9-0 run got the lead to 20 with 17:39 left and an 8-0 run put the Wildcats up 62-39 with 13:26 to go.
Instead, the lull came midway through the period and combined with the Utes making seven straight shots to get within 68-56 with 8:59 left. But after a timeout, Tubelis hit back-to-back mid-range jumpers to trigger a 13-0 run as Utah went scoreless for more than five minutes.
Arizona started 1 of 7 from the field and lost Tubelis for the rest of the first half after he was called for a technical with 14:42 left in first half after kicking a ball into the Zona Zoo. Tubelis had just been called for a loose ball foul and also missed his first three shots, and combined with his foul-impacted performance at Stanford the frustration got to him.
The rest of the Wildcats picked him up, though, going on a 10-0 run after to lead 18-9. The UA made 10 of 12 shots at one point and got the lead up to 43-26 after a Henri Veesaar alley-oop from Ramey with 1:12 left in the first half.
Up next for Arizona is its first meeting of the season with Colorado, on Saturday night at McKale. The Buffaloes (15-12, 7-9) outscored ASU 17-3 down the stretch to win 67-59 in Tempe on Thursday.