Buffs Rally In Second Half For Big Road Win At Utah
SALT LAKE CITY — Colorado used a 15-0 run to start the second half Monday to take control, then held off Utah down the stretch to collect a 65-58 win over the Utes at the Huntsman Center.
The victory ended an eight-game losing streak at Utah for the Buffs, who improved to 9-3 overall and 3-2 in Pac-12 play. Utah fell to 4-5, 1-4.
Tad Boyle's Buffs had two players with double-doubles, led by D'Shawn Schwartz's 15-point, 15-rebound effort, his second career double-double and a career high in rebounds. CU freshman Jabari Walker had a 15-point, 10-rebound game for his first career double-double, Evan Battey had 10 points and six rebounds, and senior guard McKinley Wright IV had nine points and four assists. Wright is now tied with former CU great Jay Humphries for Colorado's all-time assist record with 562.
Timmy Allen led Utah with 19 points.
Colorado trailed 37-27 at intermission after a rough first half in which CU shot just 27 percent while allowing Utah to shoot nearly 55 percent. But the Buffs were a different team after intermission, starting the half with a 15-0 run to take the lead, then fighting off every Utes run the rest of the way.
Colorado dominated the boards, finishing with a 49-31 rebound edge, including 15 offensive rebounds that led to 13 second chance points.
"The offensive rebounding and our defensive energy and effort in the second half were the keys," Boyle said. "I challenged the guys at halftime. I challenged their toughness and they responded."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado trailed, 37-27, at the half, but quickly took control with a 15-0 run to start the second half.
Schwartz had back-to-back buckets early in the run, Evan Battey had a basket and two free throws, Walker had a three-point play and Jeriah Horne notched a basket inside on an assist from Wright. On the defensive end, CU forced seven straight empty Utah possessions, and with just under 15 minutes to play, the Buffs had converted a 10-point deficit into a five-point lead, 42-37.
Schwartz, who was just 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, proved to be a catalyst, hitting his first two shots to spark the run, then adding another basket off of an offensive rebound after Utah finally scored.
"D'Shawn Schwartz — really proud of him," Boyle said. "He did not play very well in the first half. He missed some bunnies, his head was down, he was frustrated. He really picked it up in the second half. To finish with 15 and 15 is a testament to his mental toughness, which is great to see out of one of your seniors."
Utah then pulled to within one at several junctures, but the Buffs each time had an answer. Walker hit a 3-pointer with 9:15 to play, followed by a Battey hook shot that gave CU a 51-45 edge.
Walker continued to show that he has a bright future ahead, coming up with critical rebounds and baskets. He had seven points in a 10-0 CU first-half run, then hit a three-point play in Colorado's 15-0 run before his 3-pointer midway through the second half gave the Buffs a four-point cushion.
"He just plays with such energy," Boyle said. "Fifteen (points) and 10 (rebounds) in 16 minutes — the kid makes plays and our players, you can tell they love him … The thing I love about Jabari, he is not scared of anything or anybody. He plays with such passion and joy. Just got to keep learning. That's what your freshman year is for."
Colorado's lead was reduced to one again with 3:32 to play after back-to-back buckets from Utah's Allen, but Wright hit two free throws with 3:16 to play to push the Buffs' edge back to three, 55-52.
The Buffs then held off the Utes down the stretch — something they couldn't do just a year ago when they lost leads at the end of regulation and overtime in a defeat CU's veterans still remembered.
"We wanted to do whatever we had to do to come out with a win," Wright said.
For the first 20 minutes, though, the Buffs didn't seem to be ready to play. Colorado struggled to create consistent offense in the first half and trailed 37-27 at intermission. CU shot just 27% in the opening half (9-for-33) while the Utes were an efficient 17-for-31 that included 26 points in the paint.
Colorado led, 22-20, with 6:24 remaining in the half before the Utes closed with a 17-5 surge that included a 15-2 run. CU shot just 1-for-10 in that stretch while the Utes hit 7-of-8.
TURNING POINT: After an overall sluggish first half, Colorado came out of the locker room after intermission and reeled off a decisive 15-0 run and never trailed again.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs are now 2-2 on the road in Pac-12 play (1-0 at home) and have nine home games remaining. If they can hold serve on their home court and pick up a few more road wins, they will be in great position for a top-four conference finish.
KEY STATISTICS: The Buffs held a 49-31 rebound edge that included 15 offensive rebounds that produced 13 second-chance points … CU held Utah to just 33 percent shooting in the second half.
QUOTEWORTHY: "When you shoot 35 percent for the game, 27 percent in the first half, there's going to be some offensive rebounds. That's another way you can win a game. Through a 20-game league schedule, you have to figure out different ways to win. If we don't offensive rebound, we don't win tonight's game." — CU head coach Tad Boyle.
NEXT UP: Colorado returns to Boulder for two games this week. The Buffs host Cal in a noon game Thursday at the CU Events Center, then meet Stanford on Saturday at the Events Center at 1 p.m. Both will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.