ompetitively it was awesome ... It was fun and the guys really competed. I thought they laid it out there. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
LOS ANGELES — Utah's first trip to the Pac-12 Tournament proved to be a quick one. Colorado ousted the Utes with a 53-41 victory Wednesday night in the Staples Center.
They didn't, however, depart without a fight.
Days after suffering the most-lopsided loss in program history — a 46-point setback at Oregon — 11th-seeded Utah showed some competitive fire against sixth-seeded Colorado. The Utes responded to head coach Larry Krystkowiak's request earlier in the week to go down swinging.
"Competitively it was awesome," Krystkowiak said. "... It was fun and the guys really competed. I thought they laid it out there."
Although the first-round game between the two conference newcomers may have lacked the drama of a title bout, or even a backyard brawl, it proved to be quite a battle right down to the wire.
"I thought we played with a lot of heart and a lot of energy," said Utah center Jason Washburn. "The game just got away from us again."
The Utes, he added, were locked in with the game plan and knew what they had to do.
In the end, though, it was the Buffaloes who landed the pivotal blows. Former Ute Carlon Brown answered a pair of late challenges with baskets after Utah had pulled with two points in the final 6:39. The first made it 37-33 and the second upped it to 39-35 as Colorado held on for the win.
The latter led to a decisive 8-0 run that assured the Buffaloes of a third win over the Utes this season. They (20-11) prevailed 73-33 in Boulder on Dec. 31 and 55-48 in Salt Lake City on Feb. 18.
Colorado improved to 20-11 with the victory and will face Oregon in the quarterfinals Thursday. Utah, meanwhile, capped its first season under Krystkowiak with a 6-25 mark. The Utes finished the campaign with an 18-game skid away from the Huntsman Center, dating back to 2010-11.
Andre Roberson and Brown finished with 20 and 15 points, respectively, for Colorado. Washburn had a team-high 11 for Utah.
The Buffaloes held a 25-23 edge at halftime after overcoming some struggles on offense.
Utah got downright defensive early on. The Utes jumped out to an11-4 lead while holding Colorado scoreless for more than 10 minutes. The Buffaloes missed 10 consecutive shots from the field after Brown opened the game with a layup. The drought ensued just over a minute later following a pair of free throws by Roberson.
Utah took control by reeling off 11 straight points while erasing the 4-0 deficit. Washburn paced the outburst with four points, while Cedric Martin and Dijon Farr each added three. A free throw by Anthony Odunsi accounted for the other score.
"Guys were just playing their hardest and good things were happening," Washburn said.
The Buffaloes didn't respond until Roberson stole the ball from Martin and raced down the floor for a dunk with 8:22 left to play in the half. It ushered in a 6-0 run that pulled them back into contention at 11-10.34 comments on this story
After Utah regained some breathing room on a 3-pointer by Chris Hines, Roberson fueled another Colorado outburst — netting five points in an 8-0 spurt that gave the Buffaloes an 18-14 advantage. They eventually expanded the lead to five points before Farr closed the gap on a buzzer-beating shot from beyond the arc.
Roberson topped all scorers with 12 points at the break. Brown had nine. They each had two steals as well, contributing to 10 miscues by the Utes over the first 20 minutes.