Our shots weren’t falling. We were getting good looks. They just weren’t falling. —Utah senior Gabe Bealer
BOULDER, Colo. — Heavy hearts may have been a factor in Utah’s 67-55 loss at Colorado. Friday night’s setback came hours after the death of Jon M. Huntsman Sr. was announced. Huntsman’s name adorns the team’s arena and practice facility.
“I’m not making any excuses. It was a rough day for me,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “I told our players that. I’ll be better in the future. It stings.”
Senior forward Tyler Rawson said the news had an impact on the players.
“For sure and it definitely affected me,” he said. “Jon was a great guy and definitely a great mentor. Everyone on the team or in the program was deeply saddened.”
Rawson added that Huntsman was definitely in their hearts Friday and they’ll be playing the rest of the season for him.
“That’s tough news for us, for the state of Utah, for the program — specifically Utah basketball,” said junior guard Parker Van Dyke. “His name is all over our program and the influence he has had.”
As such, Van Dyke said, it was tough to hear of Huntsman’s death. Van Dyke noted that the team was able to visit his house before the season began.
“Our hearts and prayers are out to the Huntsman family,” he said.
In the midst of their sorrow, the Utes struggled mightily to put the ball in the basket against Colorado.
“That certainly was the story in the first half,” acknowledged Krystkowiak, who was especially disappointed with Utah’s outside misses. “I thought our defense was pretty good.”
Things started off much like Krystkowiak joked about earlier in the week. It nearly fit the bill as “Friday night at the fights” with both teams kind of slinging around in the mud. There were six ties before Colorado pulled away to take a 27-20 halftime lead. The Buffaloes erased a 20-17 deficit by holding the Utes scoreless over the final 5:17.
Utah shot an abysmal 27.3 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from 3-point range. Sedrick Barefield, Justin Bibbins and Rawson were especially cold. The double-digit scorers were a combined 2-of-16 shooting in the pivotal first half.
Colorado, meanwhile, also benefited from a 10-0 advantage in fast-break points.
When play resumed, so too did Utah’s scoring drought. The Utes went dry until Bibbins converted a 3-point play just under two minutes into the second half. It followed a basket by Colorado and cut the deficit to 29-23.
The Buffaloes responded with five straight points to regain some breathing room. The Utes drew within seven before Lucas Siewert hit back-to-back 3-pointers to increase Colorado’s lead to 40-27 with 13:44 left to play.
The situation eventually grew more dire for the Utes as the Buffaloes extended their lead to 21 points down the stretch.
Utah finished the game with a 13-4 run. However, it was far too little and far too late to make more than a cosmetic difference. The Utes wound up shooting 35.1 percent from the floor. David Collette finished with a team-high eight points.
“Our shots weren’t falling. We were getting good looks. They just weren’t falling,” said senior Gabe Bealer. “We were hitting the open guys and, you know, weren’t getting foul calls or anything — just got to get back in the gym and shoot and hopefully they’ll start falling next game.”
After three straight games on the road, Utah returns to the Huntsman Center next week to face Stanford (Thursday) and California (Saturday). The Utes play five of their final seven games at home. Their lone remaining road trip is Feb. 15-17 at Washington and Washington State.
EXTRA STUFF: Utah entered the game with seven straight wins over Colorado. Freshman guard McKinley Wright led all scorers with 21 points for the Buffaloes. The attendance was 7,645. Bibbins led the Utes with six rebounds and four assists. Rawson finished with a team-best three steals. Colorado held the lead for 24:04, while Utah was in front for just 10:13. The Buffaloes and Utes meet again March 3 in Salt Lake City.