Playing on the road in conference play is tough. Playing in elevation is even tougher.
How about throwing in a few extra periods, just for an extra degree of difficulty?
Arizona squandered a 16-point halftime lead and missed shots at the end of regulation and the first two overtime periods but made the third OT the charm, escaping with a 105-99 win at Utah on Thursday night.
It was the eighth-ranked Wildcats’ first win in three or more overtimes since beating Cal in triple OT in 2011 and improved them to 3-3 on the road in Pac-12 play this season. Arizona (18-5, 9-3) also remained in sole possession of first place ahead of another game in altitude on Saturday night at Colorado.
Pelle Larsson had a career-high 27 points, adding seven rebounds and eight assists, while Caleb Love had 19 points and a career-best 10 rebounds and Oumar Ballo went 10 points, 16 boards and three blocks for his third straight double-double. Keshad Johnson had 17 and Kylan Boswell 16 as the UA had all five starters in double figures for the first time since beating Utah at home last month.
Arizona shot 43.4 percent overall and made 9 of 26 3s while going 24 of 32 from the line, but six of those misses came after regulation. That included two misses by Larsson, an 82 percent free throw shooter, with the game tied at 91 in the final minute of the second OT.
The UA never trailed in the third overtime, using a 9-0 run to put the game away. In the middle of that run was a a 3-pointer by Love, who was just 5 of 20 from the field and 3 of 11 from 3.
Love missed potential game-winners to end the first two OTs, including a deep 3 at the end of the second extra period.
Utah (15-8, 6-6) lost for the first time at home despite 27 points and 15 rebounds from center Branden Carlson and a triple-double (14 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) from guard Deivon Smith. The Utes shot 43.8 percent and made 11 of 29 3s, including the first seven of the second half, but they missed eight of nine in the OTs.
The Wildcats built a 41-25 halftime lead by holding Utah to 32 percent shooting while getting five steals and four blocked shots. But after making only 2 of 10 3s in the first half the Utes made their first seven triples.
Utah needed just over eight minutes in the second half to match its first-half scoring but couldn’t get closer than eight until an 11-0 run tied it at 63 with 6:09 left.
Boswell made two free throws to end a 4-minute scoreless streak, but with 5:25 left play was stopped after Boswell was on one knee by the Utah bench and clutching his left shoulder. Trainer Justin Kokoskie walked him back to the locker room, and Boswell returned to the bench shortly and re-entered with a few minutes remaining in regulation.
Utah took its first lead since 13-12 on a Branden Carlson basket for a 68-67 edge, but Larsson scored on a drive on the other end shortly after to put Arizona back in front. The Wildcats remained in front until the final minute, building as much as a 5-point lead with 1:10 to go, but Gabe Madsen’s transition 3 tied it at 76 with 19.4 seconds left in regulation and then Boswell missed a 3 before the buzzer.
Arizona trailed by two in the final minute of the first OT before Love hit a floater to tie it at 82, and after Smith stepped out of bounds with 5.1 seconds left Love had a shot to end it but a similar runner was off.
Love scored six in a row for Arizona to start the second OT but Arizona didn’t make a field goal the final 2:58 of that period, with Johnson and Larsson missing three of foul foul shots down the stretch and Love missing the lone 3 to send it to a third OT.
Ballo’s alley-oop from Larsson put the UA up for good at 95-93 early in the third OT, and Jaden Bradley hit a free throw with 40.5 seconds left to build a 9-point edge before Larsson made 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch.
Arizona jumped out to an 8-2 lead only to see Utah score nine in a row to go in front. The Utes made four straight shots during that run but only made six more the rest of the first half, including four of their final 20 attempts.
That led to quite a few offensive rebounds for Utah, which had 10 in the first 16 minutes, but only scored on two of those extra chances.
The Wildcats outscored Utah 19-6 over a 7-minute span to build a 27-17 lead, extending the margin to 16 at the half mostly behind their defense.
Arizona tries for its first road sweep of the Mountain schools in nine years when it visits Colorado on Saturday night. The Buffaloes (16-7, 7-5) beat ASU 82-70 to improve to 13-0 this season at the Coors Event Center, where the Wildcats haven’t won since 2015.