Utah Basketball Preparing For Showdown With No. 8 Arizona

Feb 6, 2024, 6:47 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – The Runnin’ Utes will be home this weekend and preparing for a showdown with the top team in the Pac-12 in the No. 8 Arizona Wildcats.

The Utes have been a formidable foe at home, currently sitting 12-0 on the season, but will be facing one of their toughest challenges yet in the Huntsman Center for the 2023-24 season.

Utah did pick up some nice momentum last weekend against a decent Colorado team in front of the home crowd that they are hoping will carry over to this weekend as the regular season starts to wind down.

Utah Needs To Build Off Colorado Momentum

Despite being a force at home, Utah is not the best on the road and suffered a particularly bad outing almost two weeks ago against the Washington schools that left fans wondering if they had anything left in the tank.

The answer of course was “yes” as the Utes rebounded from disappointment well at home against the Buffs to the tune of a 73-68 victory.

However, the stakes are higher this week and the competition harder with a Top-10 opponent rolling in.

Utah head coach Craig Smith was hopeful in the Colorado post-game some of that confidence and momentum would roll into this week.

“These dudes have been going hard for a long period of time and when you’re coming off the way we performed last week- it’s hard,” Smith said. “You’ve got to be able to regroup and regather yourself. We have a great locker room. It was big to get this one and now we have a really tough stretch this week with the Arizona schools coming in. We’re going to have to be really on-point with both of these teams to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Runnin’ Utes Turn Attention To No. 8 Arizona

The last time these two teams met back in early January in Tucson didn’t go so great for Utah. Despite keeping things close for a half, Arizona eventually ran away with the game 92-73.

Having the ability to have another crack at the now No. 8 Wildcats from the comfort of home is an exciting and motivating prospect that Smith and the Utes want to take advantage of and hope the fans will be excited about too.

“Obviously, they are in first place in the Pac-12,” Smith said. “They’ve played a very tough schedule- I think they are No. 4 in the NET today and have been Top Five pretty much all year in the NET rankings. The longer the season goes, the more I think those NET rankings tell you what teams truly are. I think when you coach 18–24-year-olds, they see it and get super excited about it. Our fan base- I hope they are really excited about it. Hopefully they will come out and support our team on Thursday evening.”

Huntsman Homecourt Advantage

Everyone knows the McKale Center is a respected venue in college basketball. It certainly played a role in the outcome of the first match.

The Huntsman Center is also a revered venue in college hoops, though it’s been a little dormant in recent years. However, the 2023-24 season has seen the Hunty start coming back to life- something Smith would like to take advantage of Thursday night.

“I think we’ve had a lot more fans consistently show up to our games this year as compared to the last two years,” Smith said. “I think that really impacts winning. I’ve said that many, many times. Arizona is a great example- I mean, they are basically sold out every night and you feel that fan base. It’s really, really difficult to win there. We are going to have play really good basketball. You don’t ever have to play perfect, but we are going to have to play a good basketball game. Come in there with a great game plan. This is an environment I know our guys are excited to compete in.”

Runnin’ Utes Crossing Fingers For Better Health

In the last meeting between these two teams, the Utes had to manage a key injury to Keba Keita early in the game that changed the complexion of the competition greatly.

Smith says his team has strangely become accustomed to injuries in games with Rollie Worster, Lawson Lovering, and Deivon Smith being other examples, though thankfully all of them are back aside from Worster.

Smith is hopeful Utah can get through competing with a very talented and athletic Arizona team without any incident.

“That was tough, if I remember correctly Keba played three minutes- four minutes in that game and came down with an ankle,” Smith said. “It changes us. At the same time, it seems like we are getting awfully used to all these injuries happening. It’s kind of- you almost expect it in a weird way. Keba is such a force. Keba plays with elite force. He does things that are very difficult to teach with his athleticism and speed- his strength. He impacts the game. An elite rebounder, great shot blocker. He changes us. We were just without Lawson for, five games? That changed us. To be able to have both of these guys back and hopefully for the whole game- that really helps because the physicality that Keba brings to the table and that Lawson brings to the table- you’ve got to have against a team like this.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

Are you on Threads yet? Let’s connect, give us a follow @kslsports

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

  • Utah Utes Scoreboard

  • Utah Utes Team Leaders

  • Utah Utes Standings

Utah Utes


Michelle Bodkin

Former Utah Utes Athletes Set To Compete At 2024 Paris Olympics

All eyes turn to Paris, France, next week for the 2024 Summer Olympics and there will be a few former Utah athletes taking the big stage.

2 days ago


Brian Preece

Locals In MiLB: Justin Sterner Gets Second Cup Of Coffee With Tampa Bay Rays

The life of a minor league bullpen arm is rarely straightforward, as former BYU Cougar standout pitcher Justin Sterner can attest.

4 days ago


Michelle Bodkin

Kai Roberts, Micah Ashman Recount High School Basketball Rivalry After MLB Draft

Former Utah baseball stars Kai Roberts and Micah Ashman recounted a high school basketball rivalry after being drafted to the MLB.

4 days ago

merit jones...

Brian Preece

Utah Baseball Starting Pitcher Merit Jones Selected By Minnesota Twins

The Boston Red Sox have selected University of Utah starting pitcher Merit Jones with the 608th overall pick in the 2024 MLB draft.

5 days ago

micah ashman...

Brian Preece

Detroit Tigers Select Utah Utes Closer Micah Ashman In MLB Draft

Micah Ashman is the second Ute to hear his name called in the 2024 MLB draft after the Detroit Tigers picked him in the 11th round.

5 days ago


Michelle Bodkin

Getting To Know Utah Football’s 2024 Schedule: Arizona State Sun Devils

It’s time to dive into Utah football's game six against another familiar former Pac-12 foe in the Arizona State Sun Devils

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles


KSL Sports

Utah Hockey Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Want to get the latest info on Utah's newest sports franchise? Sign up for the Utah Hockey newsletter!


KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.


KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.


KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.

Utah Basketball Preparing For Showdown With No. 8 Arizona