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No time to rest for Arizona men’s basketball with another elevated opponent on horizon

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-colorado-buffaloes-preview-utah-overtime-fatigue-injuries-pac12 Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The unique nature of Pac-12 road trips is there is little time to dwell on the first game when the second is right around the corner. That also means there’s not much opportunity to rest after playing three overtimes, in elevation, and then getting on a plane to another state that’s higher up in the clouds.

Arizona (18-5, 9-3 Pac-12) arrived in Boulder just before 1 a.m. MT Friday following its triple-OT win at Utah, one in which three starters logged career highs in minutes and a fourth nearly hit the 50-minute mark. The back end of a traditionally arduous road swing is at 8 p.m. MT Saturday when the eighth-ranked Wildcats face Colorado.

Caleb Love played 49 of a possible 55 minutes in that 105-99 victory, the most since Gabe York set a school record with 55 (and Allonzo Trier logged 53) in a quaduple-OT loss at USC in 2016. That wasn’t Love’s most, though, as last season with North Carolina he played 57 minutes against Alabama in a 4-OT game.

Pelle Larsson played 49 minutes on Thursday, and it would have been more had he not sat out the final 2:39 of the first half after turning his ankle. That’s eight more than his previous high, set in December’s double-OT loss to FAU in Las Vegas.

“Ain’t nothing to it,” Larsson said on the Pac-12 Network broadcast after the win, which saw him score a career-high 27 points and add seven rebounds and a career-best eight assists.

Also logging their most minutes in a college game were Oumar Ballo (45) and Keshad Johnson (43), while Ballo playing all but the final 32 seconds of the third OT despite picking up his fourth foul late in regulation.

Colorado (16-7, 7-5) played its Thursday game at the same time as Arizona, but its 82-70 win over ASU was done in less than two hours. It was the Buffaloes’ 13th win in as many tries this season at the Coors Events Center, where the UA hasn’t won since 2015.

That’s also the last time the Wildcats completed the Mountain road sweep, having done so the previous season as well. Both of those teams made it to the Elite Eight under Sean Miller.

Besides fatigue, Arizona could also be facing potential limitations from injury. While Larsson had 22 of his 27 points after coming back from the ankle tweak, point guard Kylan Boswell appeared to suffer a shoulder injury with 5:25 left in regulation and had to be helped off the court by trainer Justin Kokoskie.

Boswell returned to the game with 1:32 left and missed a game-winning 3-point attempt at the end of regulation. He had two assists and made a jumper during the OT periods, finishing with 16 points—his most since a career-high 18 in the season opener—but it’s uncertain if there will be any lingering effects from that injury.

“They told me he was fine to come back in,” Tommy Lloyd said after the game, following that up with one of his go-to dad hokes. “Obviously he got hit in the shoulder or something. I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express, I stayed at a Marriott, so I’m not a doctor. Okay? I don’t know and I’m being 100 percent honest with you. I just know that they told me he was okay to play.”

Arizona has started the same five all 23 games this season, though backup guards Jaden Bradley and KJ Lewis have been getting more and more run. Bradley logged more than 20 minutes for the seventh time in Pac-12 play, while Lewis got to 20-plus for the fifth time in the last six games.

Colorado should be much healthier than when it came to McKale Center last month and got crushed 97-50. The Buffaloes were missing starters Tristan Da Silva and Cody Williams in that matchup, and that duo combined for 26 points against ASU.

Win or lose Saturday, Arizona will get a full week to recover before its next game Feb. 17 at home against ASU.