Colorado Goes Back-to-Back with Utah
SALT LAKE CITY – JR Payne and Co., close the current four-game road trip with a visit to mountain rival Utah on Friday. The Buffaloes and Utes will play the season series back-to-back for the first time since the 2017-18 season.
Colorado (13-4, 2-4 Pac-12) is hoping to right the ship this weekend, having lost its last four contests. The Buffs have spent three weeks in the Top-25 this season, the first time Colorado has been ranked three times in a season since 2016-17.
CU's road trip began with a rescheduled game at Oregon State on Jan. 17. CU played in two back-to-back overtime games between OSU and its next game at Arizona State. The Buffs' first two losses of the trip were by a slim eight-point margin.
Last time out, the Buffs jumped on No. 10 Arizona in the first quarter but weren't able to maintain the same kind of tempo for the full 40 minutes. Colorado tied its season low in field goals made (17) at Arizona, making only seven in the second half.
"My college coach used to say, 'I can only get you close to the basket. I can't throw you through the hoop,'" Payne said after the game on Sunday. "I really credit our team for executing to get great looks at the basket. The next part is finishing them. I think our team did a great job in spurts of really executing which is something we've been talking about a lot. That's a sign of growth. This was not a 20-point game. It ended up that way but it certainly shouldn't have been as far as how the game went."
Colorado has scored just 56.5 points per game in its four losses this season, below its season average of 68.6. The Buffs, despite getting chances at the basket, are also shooting just 33.5 percent a mark that is also below the team's season average (42.9).
"It's definitely tough," freshman Kindyll Wetta said about the team's shooting woes. "I think we can correct it. We're so good defensively that I think if we just lean into that it will really get our offense going. It's tough but we can do it.
The Buffs have had to rely on themselves on the road trip. Colorado has played in front of large hostile crowds on this current road swing. Oregon State packed 3,854 into Gill Coliseum and Arizona State had a vocal crowd of 2,190. Sunday's crowd of 7,103 at Arizona was the largest crowd CU has played in front of since playing at Oregon (10,483) in 2020.
"We still have some stuff to figure out," Wetta added. "Coach T [Toriano Towns] put up on the board that we need to lean into each other and that's definitely what we need to do. I think we're going to be ok. We're going to lean on each other and be ready for our next game."
Utah (10-6, 1-3 Pac-12) is in a stretch of playing three games in five days. The Utes opened the week on Tuesday with a 70-66 loss at Oregon, a game that was rescheduled. The Utes still have four postponed Pac-12 games this left on their schedule.
Utah has a pair of talented freshmen the Buffs will have to watch out for. Jenna Johnson and Gianna Kneepkens have won a combined five Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors this season.
Krista Blunk and Amanda Smith will be on the call for the Pac-12 Network on Friday (7 p.m. MT). Thad Anderson and Kami Carmann-Snyder will get the second leg of the back-to-back at the CU Events Center on Sunday (Noon MT).
Both contests can be heard across the Colorado Radio Network, the Varsity Network app and locally on 630 KHOW, starting with the pregame show 30 minutes before tip.