It’s never easy for the Buffs in Salt Lake City. No matter how good Utah is, their guys play tough and hit big shots, while the CU offense scuffles along. But tonight, for the first time since 2012, Colorado did just enough to leave with a 65-58 win.
This first half felt like an exaggerated version of what we have seen before. The Buffs got whatever opens shots they wanted, but were unable to finish anything inside. They made just three layups on thirteen attempts (!!), many of which were bunnies. They shot 22% on two-points attempts, which is probably their worst mark in at least several years.
On the other end, Utah had nearly as many points in the paint (26) as the Buffs had in the first half (27). We have seen this weakness before, this becomes even more of an issue with Dallas Walton sidelined with an injury. Utah got to the rim seemingly whenever they wanted, either off dribble drives or through their bigs.
It turned out that Colorado’s horrendous shooting half was, in fact, unsustainable. Down by 10 points to start the half, they scored 15 unanswered to take control of the game. They did by tightening up the defensive side, pushing rebounds into scoring chances and making some damn layups.
Utah fought back, of course, and the Buffs needed an outstanding performance from Jabari Walker to stay on top. The freshman had his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, along with a block and a steal when Utah was getting back into it. Having a sparkplug scorer off the bench is critical on a night where McKinley Wright struggled as a scorer.
Eventually, after a number of replay reviews and injury timeouts, his game came down to the wire. It was anything but an exciting finish, as the game came down to rebounding and free throws, as the Buffs had a 18-rebound advantage and hit 13 of 16 freebies, while the Utes missed all 7 of their attempts in the second half.
Next up for the Buffs is a home series against California (Wednesday, 7:00 p.m.) and Stanford (Saturday, 1:00 p.m.). Colorado will be heavily favored in both of those games, but they cannot afford such a poor shooting night.