Forward Jordan Loveridge goes up for a shot. (Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports)
March 1, 2014
The Utes (19-9, 8-8 Pac-12) shot 70.8 percent (17-of-24) from the field in the second half to pull away from the Buffaloes. Josh Scott had 17 points and Xavier Johnson added 10 for Colorado (20-9, 9-7), which lost to Utah for just the second time in the last nine games between the two rivals.
The Buffaloes shot just 39.6 percent (21-of-53) from the field and were undone by 11 second-half turnovers.
After trailing by as many eight late in the first half, Utah shut down Colorado's offense before halftime. The Utes held the Buffaloes without a field goal over a stretch of 8:14 spanning both halves.
"We had an 8-point deficit and we were not playing defense like we knew we could," head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We got it even heading into halftime and then came out in the second half and shot the ball as well as we could. Brandon did a great job on Askia and we wanted to limit their pick-n-roll. We know we can't be perfect but we wanted to limit that and contest him on every shot."
It allowed Utah to finally claim its first lead early in the second half. The Utes scored 17 unanswered points - culminating in a 3-point play by Wright off his own steal - to take a 39-30 lead less than four minutes into the second half.
Scott broke the ice for Colorado with a jumper, but Utah tacked on a couple of more baskets - punctuated by Loveridge drilling a 3-pointer - to increase its lead to 45-32 with 13:52 remaining.
"He [Jordan] hasn't had many opportunities because of the way teams have defended him in this league," Krystkowiak added. "We threw the ball inside and that opened things up. Jordan was able to hit some shots and Colorado didn't really double him. He took the right shots at the right time. He made solid passes and other than the first four minutes, he played really well defensively."
"We knew we needed to pick up our defense to help our offense," Loveridge said. "We just wanted to get stops since we knew that would help us on the other end. We didn't want to let the fans down either. They've been so great this year for us and we appreciate all the support."
The Buffaloes cut Utah's lead to nine points three different times and pulled within 59-50 on Xavier Johnson's 3-point play with 6:48 left. But the Utes pressed on the gas pedal and pulled away from Colorado. Utah scored baskets on three straight possessions and took a 68-51 lead with 3:49 remaining when Wright fed Princeton Onwas for an alley-oop dunk and then hit three free throws a minute later.
Dustin Thomas scored three quick baskets to help Colorado sprint out to an early 7-2 lead. Utah had a difficult time cutting into the lead because the Buffaloes seemingly had an answer every time the Utes threatened to make a run.
Back-to-back dunks from Dallin Bachynski helped the Utes pull within three at 11-8. Xavier Johnson responded with his own pair of back-to-back baskets to push Colorado's lead back to six at 16-10.
Utah tied it for the first time at 18-18 on four straight free throws from Onwas and Jeremy Olsen. That set the stage for back-to-back baskets from Eli Saltzer that fueled a 7-0 spurt to put the Buffaloes back in front. Colorado extended its lead to 30-22 on a 3-pointer from Jaron Hopkins with 4:35 left before halftime.
The Utes got back into the game by finally shutting down Colorado's offense as the first half wound down. Colorado was held without a field goal over the final 4:35 of the half.
Utah took advantage by finally getting things going on the offensive end. The Utes tied it up at 30-30 on a 3-pointer from Loveridge with 1:42 remaining before halftime, positioning themselves to explode out of the gate in the second half.