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Runnin' Utes defy the odds, upsetting 4th-ranked Arizona

Posted at 4:55 PM, Dec 02, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — Thursday night at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, something some thought was impossible happened: The University of Utah men's basketball team beat the #4-ranked University of Arizona 81-66.

Brendan Mercado goes to every home basketball game, but he said Thursday night's game was something special.

"It was loud the whole game. The Utah coach was fired up the whole time and there was a sequence where we blocked a dunk, we dunked on someone, and one of our players blocked an Arizona player, so I was fired up. I was celebrating. It was one of the best experiences I've had here," said Mercado.

While some may have counted the Utes out before tip-off, the players knew they had to go into the game with a strong mindset.

"You always have to have that attitude that you can go out and beat anybody; you can hang with anybody," said Branden Carlson, Utah's starting center.

Despite what the 15-point final score difference may suggest, the win didn't come easy.

"You know, it was a battle all game," Carlson said. "We'd get the lead, they'd cut it down, we'd get the lead, they'd cut it down."

There were points in the game where Arizona cut the Utes' lead to within five, but the Utes didn't fold.

"They're a great team," Utah's starting point guard Rollie Worster said of their opponents. "They've proved that year after year and at the beginning of this season."

Being a traditionally great team wasn't enough to hold off Carlson's 22 points and Worster's double-double.

"After losing to them twice last year and winning the Pac-12 championship, we just knew they had a chip on their shoulder to do the same thing this year," Carlson said.

"I just think this team comes and works hard every day, we bring it every day, and we need to continue bringing it every day," Worster added.

The crowd of more than 6,000 fans who attended Thursday night's game may have also contributed to Utah's hearty win.

"Again, credit to the MUSS, our student section, all those who came out because it was roaring in there," Worster said.

This big win gives other students who were beginning to doubt the Runnin' Utes a bigger incentive to go to games.

"We've had a lesser team for a while, so seeing our team with a new coach beat a number four seed makes me want to go to the games now that we're getting good," said Addison Egoesits.

The team said this was a great win to start the momentum going into Pac-12 play. The Runnin' Utes hope to prove their #10 Pac-12 preseason ranking wrong.

"Don't doubt us, don't count us out," Carlson said.

"This gives me a lot more hope that we'll do good in the Pac-12 and beat better teams," Mercado said.

The Runnin' Utes' next home game is Thursday vs. Jacksonville State.