The Colorado Buffaloes (13-10, 5-6 in the Pac-12) came into Friday night’s game having lost three games in a row, and while none of those losses were unexpected, they needed a win over the Utah Utes (13-9, 5-6). With energy to spare, the Buffs overcame a slow start to put together a dominant 67-55 win.
Per tradition of this age-old rivalry, Utah-Colorado started with sloppy play ruling the day. Neither team had played in 6 days, but it looked like 6 years. Of all ten players on the court, McKinley Wright was the only one who looked like he knew what day it was. While all the starters were struggling, he carried the Buffs early on as he provided their only semblance of offense until the rest of his teammates warmed up.
Once Tad Boyle called a timeout to (presumably) rip his team a new one, the Buffs were much more focused on both sides of the floor. Shots weren’t falling regularly, but unlike the opening minutes, they were at least working for open shots and knocking down a few. Wright and Lazar Nikolic both had clutch threes to pull ahead of Utah late in the first half. Wright then finished off his fantastic half with a buzzer-beater to give the Buffs a 27-20 halftime lead.
The sloppy play continued into the second half, but the scoring picked up quite a bit, at least for the Buffs. McKinley Wright stayed excellent and his teammates showed up ready to move the ball and knock down open shots, especially Lucas Siewert and George King, who finished with 20 points combined after the break. Wright, by the way, finished with 21 points and 4 assists.
Powered by scorching shooting from deep, Colorado pulled away and built a lead as large as 19 with 4:45 to go. CU more or less ran out the clock from there, put in the walk-ons in the final minute and closed out an impressive victory over a solid Pac-12 foe.
Of course, Colorado only had such success because their defense was superb. As small and young as the Buffs are, they have proven to have great communication as they fly around the court harassing opponents. Utah was hopeless tonight as Tyler Bey fortified the interior while the perimeter players caused havoc around him. Sure, Utah struggled with mental mistakes and missed wide-open shots, but you have to credit the CU defense for holding the Utes to just 35% shooting from the field and 30% shooting from deep.
Considering Utah nearly swept the Arizona schools on the road and they could challenge for the NCAA Tournament, a dominant win like this is quite impressive for the Buffs. They overcame a poor start, adjusted to their opponent and kept their foot on the pedal until they had the win in the bag.
Up next for the Buffs is a home sequence against the Bay Area schools. The Buffs play the California Golden Bears on Wednesday, Feb. 7 (9:00 p.m., ESPNU) and then the Stanford Cardinal on Sunday, Feb. 11 (2:00 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). CU should sweep those games, but you never know.