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Buffaloes lose season finale in Utah

The Buffs’ comeback attempt fall short.

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Colorado Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

We’re starting this recap with a trip to the past. February 18, 2012 to be exact, just about a month before CU’s miraculous run to win the inaugural Pac-12 championship.

On this fateful day, Andre Roberson, then a sophomore, had a team-high 12 points and 16 rebounds. That game was slugfest that saw Colorado win 55-48 on the road. That loss dropped Utah to 5-21 on the season. Josh Scott and Delon Wright watched from home after finishing their trigonometry homework. That was the last, and only, time CU has won in Salt Lake City.

The Utes are impossible for the Buffs to beat on the road, plain and simple. The Buffs are plenty experienced at playing ugly, low-scoring games against tough opponents, but there’s just something about Utah that brings out the worst in them. In today’s 64-54 loss, we saw Colorado’s worst performance since the last time they played at Utah, more or less.

I’ll spare you the details of how Utah’s 41-24 halftime lead came about. At some point in the half, Dom Collier was elbowed in the face and knocked 10 feet backwards, but no offensive foul was called. That would be a great summary of the half, but only if Collier elbowed himself in the face and couldn’t play the rest of the game due to concussion symptoms.

This trashketball was so ugly that CU shot 32% from the field in the first half and that somehow felt generous. If there was any positive, it was that CU had 11 offensive rebounds, but even that was only possible because of their sheer volume of missed shots.

Somehow, the level of play got worse in the second half, although that greatly benefited CU. The Buffs were still trash in the second half, but that was good enough for them to nearly erase a 16-point lead. That’s because, as the saying goes, it’s better to be trash than flaming garbage, which Utah was in the second.

Credit the Buffs defense for the comeback because Utah made five (5) shots in the entire second half. Since the upperclassmen didn’t exactly show up to play today, Boyle rolled with the Tadpoles for the majority of the final 20 minutes. Somewhat ironically, the Buffs’ youngest lineups are their best defensively, thanks largely to Dallas Walton controlling the paint and Tyler Bey and Lazar Nikolic locking up the wings.

CU can’t score too well with those defensive-minded players, so they relied on McKinley Wright to be their only real offensive weapon. Wright scored 16 points, but he needed help, especially when CU had a chance to tie the game around the five-minute mark and were unable to break through. After that point, the Utes started hitting free throws and pulled away as CU couldn’t answer back.

It was a tough loss for the Buffs as they drop to 16-14 (8-10) in the regular season. They’re 8th in the Pac-12 and will take on the 9th-seeded Arizona State Sun Devils in the Pac-12 Tournament. That first round game will be on Wednesday (11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks). If the Buffs upset the favored Sun Devils, they will move on to play Arizona on Thursday (11 a.m., Pac-12). If the Buffs lose to ASU, their season is likely over.