Utah basketball: Defense dominates as Utes come up short against Colorado, 55-48
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Simply put, it was another one of those games for the Utah Utes. Another, in a series dating back to last week's narrow setbacks at Arizona State and Arizona, where the Utes earned an "A" for their effort but an "L" for their performance.
Colorado used a late rally to hand Utah its seventh consecutive setback, 55-48 Saturday afternoon in the Huntsman Center.
"The moral victories are kind of wearing on us," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged after the Utes fell 5-21 overall and 2-12 in Pac-12 play.
Utah had chances to take a late lead after rallying from a nine-point deficit to tie the game on three occasions in the final 6:25. The final deadlock was at 44-44 after a layup by Cedric Martin with 4:50 remaining. After that, the Utes missed eight of their final nine shots from the field at the Buffaloes pulled away for the victory.
Krystkowiak noted that it came down to a couple of plays here and there.
"We put ourselves into a position and battled back," he said while adding that he was "super proud" of his team. "There is absolutely no quit in them. They're continuing to get better and fighting and that means a lot to this university and to our staff."
Repeatedly coming up short, though, is getting old.
"It's another one that we were in at the end and it just got away from us. We're proud of our team's effort but at the end of the game it doesn't really fix the feeling of losing," said center Jason Washburn, who finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. "Losing is losing. But once again, you know, I'm proud of our team. We hustled out there, and we really showed some heart."
The proof may be found in the final score. When the teams met Dec. 31 in Boulder, Colorado handed Utah a 73-33 whipping.
From that standpoint, things were much better this time around. It was competitive from the very start.
So competitive, in fact, that it was scoreless until Washburn scored with 14:34 to go in the first half. Before the shot dropped, the teams were a combined 0-for-11 from the field with five turnovers.
"It was two teams, I thought, that had each other scouted pretty well and took each other's strengths away," Krystkowiak said. "Maybe not the best from a fan's perspective but defense wins a lot of games and championships. I thought it was kind of neat."
Colorado led 22-19 at the end of a first half featuring seven lead changes. Neither team shot the ball well. Utah was 33.3 percent from the field, while Colorado connected on just 29.6 percent of its shots.
The second half wasn't much better as both teams wound up shooting 35 percent by game's end.
The Buffaloes (18-8, 10-4) did, however, managed to extend their lead to nine points early in the second half. That's when the Utes responded with a 14-5 run to even things up. A steal and a layup by freshman Anthony Odunsi tied things up at 40-40 with 6:25 left to play.
"Our confidence was sky high. We were trying to push it and get our lead," said Utah swingman Cedric Martin. We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and gave them a lot of second-chance opportunities."
After exchanging baskets twice, the Buffaloes (18-8, 10-4) pulled away down the stretch with a decisive 6-0 outburst.
"I was proud of our guys. The last four minutes they buckled down and did what they had to do," said Colorado coach Tad Boyle. "(Utah) made a run at us and our guys handled it."
Trailing 50-44, the Utes drew no closer than four points the rest of the way.
"We can't close again," said guard Chris Hines, who finished with 12 points. "They just won the game at the end."
Krystkowiak ponted out that it really helps when shots go in. That's what you need to do, he continued, even against what he called the best defense in the Pac-12. Another shortcoming was free throws. The Utes shot just three of them. Krystkowiak said it was an indication that they weren't aggressive enough against the Buffaloes' strength and athleticism.
Colorado won the battle of boards as well, dominating by a 46-28 margin. Andre Roberson finished with 16 rebounds and 12 points.
Former Ute Carlon Brown, who transferred to Colorado for his senior season, finished with five points on 2-of-12 shooting. He was booed by the Utah student section every time he touched the ball.
GAME NOTES: The loss snapped Utah's run of 38 consecutive winning records in the Huntsman Center. The Utes are 5-8 at home this season with just two games (Thursday against California and Saturday against Stanford) left to play on the hill. ... Washburn's double-double was his third of the season. ... The Buffaloes grabbed 46 rebounds, the most by any Utah opponent in 2011-12.
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