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Utah Falls Short at Colorado 81-76 -Game Thread

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Instant Reaction and Analysis and Final Thoughts

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes:

Utah is coming off a mixed homestand as they finally snapped their 10 game losing streak with a dominant 84-59 home win against Oregon State for their most complete performance all season. On Saturday night they fell behind by as many as 15 points to the Oregon Ducks before implementing their own full-court press and made a furious comeback in the final four minutes. The Utes had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer on a 3 point attempt from Ballstaedt but it came up just short and Utah lost a heartbreaker 80-77. The Utes have played tough against quality opposition but they continue to be plagued by scoring droughts and turnovers. Unfortunately, their last time Utah was undone by an unusually poor night from the free-throw line. Recently, the Runnin’ Utes have been a lot of fun to watch as they are increasing their tempo and Craig Smith has been encouraging his players to shoot early and often. Gabe Madsen in particular has benefitted from this shift as he scored 19 points against Oregon and has a tendency to get hot from 3 point range. The Utes need to put together a complete performance if they are going to beat the Colorado Buffaloes on the road in Boulder. The Utes have yet to win a road game all season. The Utes enter the game with a 9-15 record overall and 2-12 in conference play. Both Gach leads the Utes with 9.7 points per game. Colorado enters the game with a 14-9 record overall and 6-7 in conference play. The Buffaloes are led by Jabari Walker who is averaging 13.7 points per game. Colorado is coming off a dominant 86-63 home win against Oregon State after previously being on a 3 game losing streak. If the PAC 12 Tournament started today Colorado would enter as a #8 seed and Utah as a #11 seed. A road win would be a massive confidence boost for the Running Utes. Let’s get after it and beat the Buffaloes!

When: Saturday, February 12 at 6 pm MT

Where: CU Events Center (Boulder, CO)

How to Watch: PAC 12 Network

First Half:

14:00- Utah jumps out to a 10-7 lead over the Buffaloes. Utah began the game on an 8-0 run before Colorado came back with 7 points of their own. Branden Carlson has started hot as he has 8 points. The Utes are looking sharp early as they have had good ball movement and played pretty well defensively. Let’s hope this start continues as Stefanovic was fouled on a 3 point shot at the timeout.

12:00- After a hot start it’s been a cagey couple of minutes as both teams struggle to score but Utah still leads 14-10. The Utes are shooting 50% from the field so far but only 2-4 from the free-throw line which is a concerning stat since that cost us against Oregon and will be critical if we are going to pick up a road win.

8:00- My goodness Branden Carlson came to play as he has 18 points and the Utes lead 25-14. He was already having a terrific night but then he just hit back to back 3’s to really heat up. Now, we just need some other players to step up and knock down some shots now that Carlson will be sure to draw a lot of attention not only in the paint but on the perimeter. Carlson is really starting to find his rhythm after missing so much time this season; sorely needed for the Running Utes!

5:00- Sloppy play from the Utes and a quick transition dunk from Colorado prompts an immediate timeout from Craig Smith to slow down the momentum for the Buffs. The Utes once again having a poor night from the free-throw line as they are 4-12. The Utes are still ahead 29-20 but should be leading by a lot more.

3:00- Utah still leads 29-20 but Colorado definitely increasing their intensity and physical play as they are playing much tougher defensively and attacking the Utes. Utah has to weather the storm and get to the locker room with their lead intact.

0:00- Tough way to end the first half for the Utes as Colorado goes on a run to end the first half but Utah still leads 36-33. The Utes at one point led by 11 points. Utah has forced 9 turnovers for the Buffs but the Utes have only gone 5-14 from the free-throw line. Branden Carlson is having an incredible night that has single-handedly given the Running Utes their lead as he leads all scorers with 21 points. Evan Battey leads the Buffs with 10 points. The Utes must contest 3 points shots from the Buffs and play much tougher all around to start the second half. The Utes definitely had better ball movement early in the first half but started to get stale late in the first half. Free throws will be a big factor as this game goes on. Let’s keep this lead Utah and get our first win on the road!

Second Half:

16:00- Gabe Madsen (after some early foul trouble kept him out in the first half) finally arrives as he knocks down 3 3’s in the early minutes of the second half and Utah opens up a 49-38 lead over Colorado. The Running Utes have forced 10 turnovers for the Buffs which has really prevented Colorado from finding too much rhythm in this game. Right now the Buffs do not have an answer for Branden Carlson and finally, someone other than Carlson is finding their form.

15:00- Another quick timeout in Boulder as Utah leads 49-40. Jabari Walker has 3 fouls for the Buffs and they also have 3 players with 2 fouls each. Rollie Worster has 3 fouls and Branden Carlson, Gabe Madsen, and Both Gach have 2 fouls each. The Running Utes desperately need Carlson and Madsen to stay out of foul trouble the rest of the way.

12:00- Colorado really getting physical and ding everything to cut into the lead but Utah still leads 54-47. Battey keeping the Buffs in the game right now with 14 points. A worrying sign though as every foul will put Colorado at the free-throw line and they are currently 11-14 from the free-throw line. After Colorado cut the lead to 5 Rollie Worster with a good response on a finger roll to give the Utes the 7 point lead before forcing another Buffs turnover. The Utes need someone else to step up on the offensive end; Marco Anthony or Lazar Stefanovice seems the most likely candidate.

9:00- Utah leads Colorado 59-54. Good response from Colorado as they are clearly playing with a lot more urgency as they hustle to keep possession of the ball and then hit a big 3 to cut the lead to 5; the Utes must respond again.

8:00- This game certainly feels as though it’s going to come down to the final possession as the intensity is really heating up. The Utes force a big offensive foul just before the timeout to keep their 5 point lead at 61-56. The Utes need to put a little more distance between themselves and the Buffs in the next few minutes. Important to note that Utah only has 3 turnovers for the whole game so certainly a promising stat given some recent performances.

4:00- Colorado with their first lead of the entire game as the Buffs lead 68-67. Foul trouble has really hurt the Utes in this game as with every foul Colorado will go to the free-throw line. The Buffs are really using their physical play to their advantage and have fought their way into the lead with a little over 3 minutes to play. The Utes haven’t won a road game all season and will have to dig deep to find an answer in the closing minutes.

1:00- The Utes went over 3 minutes without a field goal and after a pair of free-throw misses from Colorado Marco Anthony hits a tough jumper in the lane to close the gap as the Buffs lead 75-73 with a little under 30 seconds remaining. The Utes will have to foul and hope for some more misses from the Buffs.

Final Thoughts:

I’m sure I sound like a broken record but this is yet another heartbreaking loss for the Running Utes. Utah led at one point by 11 points only to have a lengthy scoring drought in the second half as the Buffs come from behind to beat the Utes 81-76. Colorado really stepped it up in the second half on both ends of the court and had a major advantage as Utah got in foul trouble which would put Colorado on the foul line at every foul. The Buffs shot 51% from the field as Utah shot 43.9%. Free throws once again doomed the Running Utes as Utah shot just 52.6% (10-19) from the free-throw line compared to 82.8% (24-29) for the Buffs. Branden Carlson led all scorers with 25 points (although 21 of his 25 was in the first half) and Jabari Walker really got it going in the second half and ended with 22 points after being in foul trouble in the first half. Another tough pill to swallow for Craig Smith and the Running Utes as they can’t hold on to a second-half lead. The Utes fought hard against a Colorado team that is particularly good at home but it just wasn’t enough to withstand the Colorado pressure. The Utes will have to regroup as they have another tough road game later this week.

Next Up: Utah Running Utes @ Stanford Cardinals on Thursday, February 17 at 9 pm MT on ESPNU