Utah kept it that way, riding a dominant second half to a 75-64 victory over the Buffaloes. With the win, the Utes evened out their Pac-12 record at 8-8 with two games left to go.
“I think we just owed it to the fans,” said sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge about his team’s impressive home record. “We got a lot more fan support this year. All the preparation, all the workouts in the summer we did here, and we just didn’t want anyone to come in and beat us or disappoint the fans.”
Loveridge and Delon Wright led the way for Utah on Saturday, finishing with 21 points apiece. Both were efficient too, as Loveridge shot 9-of-14 from the floor and Wright tallied a 7-of-9 clip. In the second half, the Utes shot nearly 71 percent from the floor as a team.
“How could you not be excited about that?” said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak about the high shooting percentage. “The only thing that kept [the second half] from being perfect was our turnovers.”
Utah gave the ball away 15 times on the afternoon.
Colorado came out of the gate firing on all cylinders in the first half, hitting seven of its first 11 shots. Leading the way in the beginning was Dustin Thomas, who scored seven quick points while being guarded by Loveridge. The Ute sophomore adjusted though, and Thomas finished the afternoon with just eight points.
“[Loveridge] had that look in his eye,” Krystkowiak said. “When he was releasing shots, I had a sense that they were going to go in. They were the right kind of shot and sometimes it’s hard to find that timing … defensively, it was one of his better games as well.”
After trailing by as many as eight points in the first half thanks to a lackluster defensive effort, the Utes used a 23-2 run spanning the first and second sessions to put the Buffaloes away for good. During that run, Utah’s defense forced eight turnovers, which led to fast break opportunities and some highlight plays by Wright and Princeton Onwas.
“We finished that couple of four-minute segments off heading into the locker room and managed to tie the score. I think that kind of set the pace and we were able to keep that pace going into the second half,” Krystkowiak said.
With their home schedule complete, the Utes will now travel this week to take on Cal and Stanford in the final two games of the regular season. For a team that is trying to get on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament, Krystkowiak knows how important these games will be.
“The most important thing for us right now is to get galvanized here as we head into the Bay Area and try to figure out a way to win that first one against Cal,” Krystkowiak said.
Utah will face the Golden Bears on Wednesday and the Cardinal on Saturday.