A once-stingy Arizona defense seemingly needs serious work after it buckled in the last two contests, sending the team to its first consecutive losses of the season.
The ninth-ranked Wildcats will try to avoid the program’s first three-game losing streak in three years Sunday when they visit a Utah team that has one of the Pac-12’s worst offenses.
The Wildcats were limiting teams to 39.7 percent shooting before letting the last two opponents combine to go 54.5 percent from the field, and make 15 of 30 from 3-point range.
Arizona, which hasn’t dropped three consecutive games since Feb. 13-25, 2010, allowed Colorado to shoot 59.1 percent in the second half of a 71-58 road loss on Thursday, its most lopsided defeat in two seasons.
“Our defense has been what has gotten us to this point,” coach Sean Miller said. “Our last two losses, our defense had a very hard time getting stops.
“We wouldn’t be the team we are today and have the record we have if teams would have shot like this against us. We’ve played against some of the best teams in this country and our defense has held up. Tonight, it didn’t. … From our standpoint, we have to get back when we play Utah.”
That seemingly shouldn’t be too difficult considering the Running Utes (11-3, 3-9) are averaging 60.1 points in conference play. Arizona beat Utah 60-57 on Jan. 5 for its sixth straight win in the series.
The Wildcats, averaging a plus-6.7 rebounding advantage, are also trying to regain their dominance on the glass having been outrebounded in consecutive games for the first time this season.
Solomon Hill is second on the team in scoring with 13.9 points per game, but he’s 9 for 26 (34.6 percent) over the last two contests. Arizona’s 58 points against Colorado was only one more than a season low set against Washington two weeks earlier.
“It’s never as bad as it seems and the sky isn’t falling,” Miller said. “There aren’t a lot of teams right now that are headed where we’re headed and no question there’s bumps in the road over a long season.”
After going 3-15 in its inaugural Pac-12 season last year, Utah matched that win total with a 60-55 home victory over Arizona State on Wednesday. Center Jason Washburn matched his career high with 26 points for the Utes, who rallied from eight down in the final 6:46.
“We are trying to get it restored and games like this give us some momentum,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Hopefully this is not just medicine for us, but for the fans and momentum to get this built again.”
Washburn was 9-of-12 shooting against the Sun Devils, and continues to shine in league play. After averaging 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 12 non-conference games, the 6-foot-10 senior is averaging 14.1 points and 8.7 boards against Pac-12 foes.
Washburn had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the first meeting with Arizona, and Jarred DuBois missed a potential game-tying shot with three seconds remaining.
Hill led Arizona with 19 points while leading scorer Mark Lyons was just 3 of 14 for 12 points.