SALT LAKE CITY — Utah climbed above the .500 mark Sunday. A 78-69 victory over Colorado lifted the Utes to 9-8 overall and 3-2 in Pac-12 play.
Senior guard Sedrick Barefield is confident they can build upon their winning record.
“Absolutely,” he said before noting that beating Colorado was a good deal even though the Buffaloes (10-7, 1-4) were without scoring leader McKinley Wright, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury. “But a win is a win. This gives us momentum going into the Bay Area next week.”
The Utes are at Stanford Thursday and California on Saturday. They return home to face Oregon on Jan. 31.
“So if we handle business the rest of this month that will be good,” Barefield said. “We’ve just got to continue to stay focused and keep getting better because the (Pac-12) is pretty open right now.”
Barefield led Utah to its second straight win with a game-high 22 points. Freshman forward Timmy Allen posted his first career double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
"I'm playing good ball,” Allen said. “I feel like I'm in a groove. I've got some momentum."
Even so, Allen added that he could do a lot of things better and he’s looking to improve game by game.
Early on, the Utes showed great progress. Although it involved a lot of dunks and 3-point shots, it all began with defense. They had a season-high 18 deflections in the first half.
Utah led 41-19 at halftime. That was the official score. At the same time, though, Colorado held a slim 19-17 edge over Barefield. He made five 3-pointers over the first 20 minutes, emerging from a 2-for-12 slump from beyond the arc a week earlier against Washington and Washington State.
Barefield made three of his early 3-pointers during a 28-6 run that broke open a close game. Leading 9-7, Utah ignited the outburst by reeling off 12 straight points, including seven by Allen. Colorado was held scoreless for almost six minutes during the pivotal stretch.
"It's never going to be perfect, but right up until about the last four minutes of the first half it was really solid,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We played with a tremendous amount of energy, I thought, defensively."
Krystkowiak explained that the Utes used a couple of zone concepts to get things going.
"It kind of opened the game up with some of those turnovers and getting out in transition — a heck of a lot of momentum,” Krystkowiak added.14 comments on this story
By game’s end, Allen and Donnie Tillman each had three steals. Big men Jayce Johnson and Novak Topalovic wound up with two blocks apiece.
Utah led by as many as 28 points in the first half, but ended up getting outscored 50-37 in the second. However, Colorado failed to pull inside of single-digits until the Buffaloes capped all scoring with a basket in the closing seconds.
“Maybe it was my fault,” said Colorado coach Tad Boyle. “I thought I told my guys that the game started at 4 p.m. today. They thought it started at 5:30.”