The Utes only played one game this week, a road game against the Colorado Buffaloes. So my weekly ‘the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ article has really just turned into a good, bad, and ugly from Utah’s lone matchup with the Buffs.
I struggle to find one thing that the Utes did exceptionally well, or really even that good, against Colorado. It was a whole lot of “meh” play from the Utes this week which is evident from their 71-63 loss on the road. I guess as I look back on it, the play of Donnie Tillman could be considered a bright spot for the Utes. Tillman, who is averaging 10.2 points per game in 2018-19, finished with 14 points against Colorado, his second straight game in double figures after going scoreless against Washington. Tillman, a sophomore, hasn’t had quite the year that Ute fans had hoped for but as the Utes wind down the regular season, it’s nice to see Tillman begin to get into a groove offensively. The forward was the only member of the Utes to finish above .500 from the field with at least two field goal attempts. Additionally, Tillman finished with three boards and an assist.
The recent hot play from Parker Van Dyke came to a screeching halt as the senior guard finished with zero points after going 0-for-5 from the field and 0-for-3 from deep. Van Dyke hadn’t gone scoreless since Utah’s loss to BYU on Dec. 8, 2018, and had been averaging 14.4 points per game since Feb. 9. I didn’t expect Van Dyke to continue scoring 17+ points a night for the rest of the season, but to go scoreless in a game in which the Utes desperately needed consistent offensive output is also something I didn’t expect from the senior. The good news for the guard as well as Van Dyke fanatics like myself is that the Utes take on UCLA this week, a team Van Dyke has had success against, averaging 16.5 points in his last two matchups against the Bruins, including a game-winner at the buzzer in the two teams’ last meeting.
If it seems as if I put the Utah offensive inconsistency in the ‘ugly’ section nearly every week, it’s because I have. That’s been the story all season long for the 2018-19 Utes. Inconsistency. Last week I praised the Utes for scoring an impressive 92 points on 52.5% shooting in a win over Washington State, while also criticizing them for proceeding that effort with a 45 point showing on 28% shooting against Washington. Well, now the Utes have followed up their impressive win with another less-than-ideal performance against Colorado. While a struggling offensive performance against the conference’s best team in Washington can be understandable, shooting a measly 39.3% from the field, and only 19.2% from three against the seventh place Buffaloes is not. To go with it, the Utes turned the ball over 12 times and managed just 26 first-half points.
This upcoming week for the Utes is perhaps the biggest one yet for Utah. Sitting in fifth place in the Pac-12 standings, tied with UCLA and Oregon State, and only one game ahead of USC, Oregon and Colorado, the Utes need victories over both USC and UCLA at home this week to have a shot finishing in the top-3 in the Pac-12, while two losses could send them tumbling down the standings as low as tenth, depending on what happens around the conference this week.