Buffs Continue Crucial Home Stand With Visit From Utes
BOULDER — Halfway through the Pac-12 season, the Colorado Buffaloes (13-4, 7-3) find themselves in third place in the league standings — well within striking range of league-leading UCLA — and a favorable schedule down the home stretch.
The question is whether the Buffs can take advantage of the schedule and make their regular season finale — at home against the Bruins — one with championship implications on the line.
But looking 10 games into the future is not a formula for success. As CU coach Tad Boyle pointed out Friday afternoon, one of the oldest cliches in sports rings true: "It's just taking care of business one game at a time."
That starts with Saturday's 12:30 p.m. tipoff against Utah at the CU Events Center (Pac-12 Networks), the second game of a five-game homestand. The Buffs will then wrap up their longest conference homestand in program history next week with three games in five days: Arizona State on Thursday, Arizona on Saturday and Oregon State on Monday.
The next four games will no doubt be critical to the Buffs' hopes, as they will then face four games on the road before finishing with two at home. If the Buffs are going to make a title run, they can't afford to let any of their home opportunities slip away.
"You have to hold serve at home and you have to figure out a way to win road games," Boyle said. "To me, that's the separating factor. You can't take anything for granted, especially when you're in the upper half."
Saturday's meeting will be the second between the Buffs and Utes this year, with Colorado taking a 65-58 win in Salt Lake City in early January. Colorado had two players with double-doubles in the game, a 15-point, 15-rebound effort from D'Shawn Schwartz and 15 points and 10 rebounds from Jabari Walker, the first double-double of the freshman's career.
But while the Utes have struggled lately — they have lost six of their last eight — Boyle warned his team that taking the Utes lightly would be a mistake.
He pointed to last week's loss at Washington as a costly lesson in that regard. The Buffs entered the game riding a four-game win streak, only to allow the Huskies to end their eight-game losing skid and produce their first conference win of the season.
That game no doubt still sticks in the Buffs' craw — especially because it was a winnable road game.
Now, they need to make sure to protect their home floor, something they have done with great regularity under Boyle. CU is 147-27 on its home floor during his tenure.
The key, he said, will be "playing with a sense of urgency and figuring out how to win games when you're not at your best. Chances are over the next 10 games, we won't be at our best every game."
SCOUTING THE UTES: Utah is 6-7 overall and 3-6 in the Pac-12 and will be playing its third straight road game. Utah averages just under 70 points per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field. The Utes lead the Pac-12 in assists (16.1 apg) and rank second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) and third in free throw shooting (.751). Utah allows 66.7 points per game while opponents are shooting 42.6 percent.
Junior forward Timmy Allen leads Utah at 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Senior guard Alfonso Plummer averages 12.9 points and ranks fifth in the Pac-12 at 2.2 3-pointers made per game. Sophomore forward Mikael Jantunen averages 9.1 points and 4.2
rebounds while shooting 64.9 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Rylan Jones tops the Utes in assists at 4.3 per game. Jones ranks second in the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.5).
WRIGHT STUFF: Colorado point guard McKinley Wright IV is now just 18 rebounds away from becoming the first player in Pac-12 history to score at least 1,600 points, grab 600 rebounds and hand out 600 assists.
Wright currently has 1,622 ponts, 600 assists and 582 rebounds.
BROADCAST: Saturday's game will be televised by the Pac-12 Network with Drew Goodman and Sed Bonner. KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM will carry the radio broadcast with Mark Johnson and Scott Wilke.