Basketball team

Arizona women’s basketball team No. 10 defeats Utah 76-64

The Wildcats claim a fifth straight win in the series.

Utah’s Brynna Maxwell (11) celebrates after a game against Washington during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the Women’s Pac-12 Tournament Thursday, March 5, 2020 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Tucson, Ariz. • Sam Thomas scored a season-high 25 points and tied a career-best six three-pointers, and No. 10 Arizona held off Utah with the fewest points of the season in a win of 76-64 Friday night for its fifth consecutive victory. in the series.

Utah committed 22 turnovers, one shy of its season high, and was particularly vulnerable in the final four minutes of the second quarter, when Arizona uncovered an all-court press that led to seven turnovers in a decisive 19-4 run for a 41-26 lead at halftime.

“If we didn’t have the diamond press tonight, we probably wouldn’t win the game,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. “It’s something we’ve been working on but haven’t shown until today. We managed to get them back. »

Utah entered as the highest scoring team in the Pac-12 with 84.7 points per game, and Arizona entered with the league’s best defense at 53.3 points per game.

Cate Reese added 14 points and Koi Love scored his eight points in the final four minutes of the second quarter for the Wildcats (13-2, 3-2 Pac-12), who had dropped two of their previous three after reaching No. 4 in the AP Top 25, the highest regular season ranking in program history.

Gianna Kneepkens had 15 points, Brynna Maxwell had 13 and Peyton McFarland had 12 for Utah (9-5, 0-2), which played its third game since Dec. 21 after a 23-day break for COVID-19.

Arizona engineered the first play of the game for Thomas, who scored on a 3-pointer from left wing 54 seconds later. Then she scored again. And even. Thomas was 7 of 11 from the field, 6 of 9 on 3 points.

“My family, the fans, the coaches, my teammates, everyone in the world always wants me to shoot more,” Thomas said with a smile. “It’s been a constant thing all my time here. I’m trying to shoot more this season. After hitting my first two, my confidence was up. My teammates were intentionally looking for me, and I think that really helped.

Arizona built its lead to 46-26 early in the third quarter before Kneepkens made a run that brought the Utes within six points twice early in the fourth quarter, the last at 56-50.

“Arizona is talented, tough and physical, and it’s a really tough place to play,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said. “We had a streak of a few minutes in the second quarter where we turned it around and they took advantage of it. We couldn’t quite get back to the top after that. But we never give up. Sam Thomas is a terrific player. Hats off to her.

Thomas had eight points, including his fifth 3, and Reese added a layup in a 10-0 run as Arizona regained control at 66-50.

“That’s how we bounce back from a loss,” said Barnes, whose team was coming off a 68-66 overtime loss to Oregon last Saturday.

BIG PICTURE

Utah: Despite falling short against top-ranked Pac-12 teams Stanford and Arizona, the Utes look like a team that will be here for the long haul. Utah cut a 20-point deficit to six in the second half, and it has the league’s highest offense.

Arizona: The Wildcats showed no ill effects from the controversial 68-66 overtime loss to Oregon last Saturday, with their disruptor forcing the issue against Utah. Arizona walked away with 22 turnovers, the 13th time in 15 games that they had at least 15.

FOLLOWING

Utah: Plays Arizona State on Sunday in the second of a three-game road ending against Oregon on Wednesday.

Arizona: Host Colorado on Sunday