SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Arizona lost its leading scorer early in the second half, but surprisingly, the Wildcats then began to make baskets in bunches.
"I thought it said a lot about our team and several of our players to turn it back around and win convincingly after we lost our guy," said Wildcats coach Sean Miller after his team overcame the ejection of Solomon Hill and whipped Utah 77-51 on Thursday night.
When Hill was tossed for a flagrant 2 foul just after halftime, Alex Mortensen made two free throws to trim Arizona's lead to 35-32. The crowd was buzzing and the Utes, who were already playing without their leading scorer, were fired up.
But Nick Johnson made back-to-back 3-pointers to fuel a 20-2 run over a 4:26 span as Arizona took a 55-34 lead. Kyle Fogg and Kevin Parrom each had 12 points and combined for five shots beyond the arc.
"We played as a team in the second half and passed the ball. Some of those 3s in the second half were the direct result of players being unselfish," Miller said.
Nick Johnson had 11 points and Josiah Turner had 10 points as the Wildcats (12-6, 3-2 Pac-12) made 12 of 24 from 3-point range and buried the depleted Utes with the second-half flurry.
"Kevin Parrom really inserted himself in the game and hit some timely 3s and played with a lot of confidence. That spread among the guys," Miller said.
Jason Washburn scored 14 points to lead Utah (4-14, 1-5). Josh Watkins, Utah's leading scorer and only active senior, was officially dismissed on Wednesday for a violation of team rules.
Watkins previously had been suspended for one game for being late to practice, missing Utah's 81-50 home loss to Cal State Fullerton.
"The integrity of our program as a whole cannot be sacrificed for any individual," first-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak said in a statement. "This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make."
The undermanned Utes lost their only other senior, center David Foster, in November to foot surgery.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Cedric Martin took an elbow to the head from Hill and fell under the Arizona basket.
"Sometimes on a given night when you first lose a player, the others really settle in and the effort level is really high," Miller said. He could have been talking about Utah's first half without Watkins but was referring to his team's response to Hill's ejection.
Arizona, on the strength of six 3-pointers and a 21-13 rebounding advantage, raced to a 10-point lead in the first half before settling for a 33-28 lead at the break.
When Martin went down, no foul was initially called. After consulting the courtside television monitor, officials called a flagrant foul on Hill and ejected him.
"I didn't see it, but Solomon's a good kid. The game has changed. Five years ago, there would be no monitor to go to and it would just be chalked up as physical play," Miller said.
Miller did not make his players available for comment after the game. "I just didn't want to put the players in a bad position when none of us has seen the film," he said.
Utah had been competitive in home conference games in its first Pac-12 season, beating Washington State and losing to Washington by four points. But the Wildcats made it look easy to score on Utah in the second half.
''I don't think it was related to the altercation at all. I think it was more related to our guys running out of gas," Krystkowiak said. "You can only take so many punches."