TUCSON, Ariz. – Nick Johnson scored 22 points and Aaron Gordon provided a huge boost despite a rough shooting night, helping top-ranked Arizona pull away from Utah 65-56 Sunday night for its school-record 20th straight win.
Arizona (20-0, 7-0 Pac-12) struggled early in both halves before Gordon made key plays with his hustle during a deciding second-half run. He finished with 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Wildcats offset a 3-for-14 night from 3-point range with 20 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points.
Utah (14-6, 3-5) kept it close before wearing down in the closing minutes, unable to keep the athletic Wildcats off the glass or from scoring inside to remain winless on the road.
Delon Wright had 19 points and Jordan Loveridge added 13 for the Utes, who were outrebounded 40-29 and outscored 38-24 in the paint.
Utah has been good at home, earning all 14 of its wins in Salt Lake City, including a 74-69 victory over then-No. 25 UCLA on Jan. 18.
The road has been a different story for the Utes. They’ve yet to win away from the Huntsman Center, the previous loss 79-75 to Arizona State on Thursday after Utah allowed the Sun Devils to shoot 59 percent in the second half.
Utah clearly wasn’t intimidated by Arizona or the atmosphere of playing the nation’s top-ranked team in one of college basketball’s most difficult road arenas.
The Utes opened with a 12-2 run, punctuated by Wright’s steal and fast-break layup, and the Wildcats couldn’t get anything to go in, missing shots at the rim and perimeter while starting 1-for-12. Gordon also left a free throw about a foot short.
A hustle play by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson got Arizona rolling.
Scrambling after his own missed free throw, the freshman dived on the floor and hit the ball off Wright before falling out of bounds.
With the crowd cheering instead of groaning with every possession, the Wildcats found their rhythm, using a 12-0 run to take the lead.
Both teams settled down after that and traded baskets and physical play the rest of the half. Arizona went up 33-26 at halftime after Kaleb Tarczewski threw down a two-handed rebound slam at the buzzer.
The Utes didn’t back down, scoring the first six points of the second half and hitting seven of their first 11 shots while the Wildcats managed to it close despite continuing to struggle on offense.
Gordon helped turn the tide for the Wildcats.
The freshman missed 10 of his first 12 shots, many of them on wild drives to the basket, but kept playing hard.
Gordon broke Arizona out of its funk with a two-handed dunk over Dallin Bachynski, followed with a blocked shot on a jumper by Loveridge, and then grabbed an offensive rebound to keep possession alive, leading to a runner by Johnson.
Johnson added two more baskets, one a dunk on a baseline drive, to cap a 12-2 run that put Arizona up 59-49