The regular season comes to an end Saturday evening in Salt Lake City as the Utes hope to end on a high note and gain some momentum heading into the PAC 12 Tournament next week. As it stands, the Utes would enter the tournament as the #11 seed, however, with a win Saturday night and if Cal loses their final regular-season game the Utes could climb to a #10 seed. If that scenario unfolds it would mean a difference of who they play in the first round as the #7 plays the #10 and in the other matchup, the #6 plays the #11 team. It wouldn’t mean much since the Utes would still enter as an underdog either way but it would be great to end the season with a home win. The Utes are coming off a tough loss last Saturday evening against the Arizona State Sun Devils as they battled back from 11 down to tie the game at 61 before a last-second layup from the Sun Devils sunk the Utes. The Buffaloes are coming off a dominating 79-63 home win against the #2 Arizona Wildcats in a shocking upset on Saturday evening after losing their previous game by 17 at home last Thursday night to Arizona State; needless to say, it has been a bit of an up and down season for Colorado. In their previous meeting in Boulder on February 12 the Utes led with 5 minutes remaining in the game before Colorado did enough down the stretch to beat Utah 81-76. The Utes enter this matchup with an 11-18 record overall and 4-15 in conference play while the Buffaloes enter with a 19-10 record overall and 11-8 in conference play. The Runnin’ Utes are led by Branden Carlson who is averaging 13.4 points per game while the Buffaloes are led by Jabari Walker is averaging 14.4 points per game. It’s senior night so let’s get pack the Huntsman and send the Seniors out the right way!
When: Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 pm MT
Where: Jon M. Huntsman Center (Salt Lake City, UT)
How to Watch: ESPNU
14:00- Tough start for the Utes on Senior Night as the big man Evan Battey is going off as he has hit 3 of 4 from 3 point range and the Buffaloes have a 17-7 lead. So far the Utes have been outrebounded and out shot so the Utes desperately need to play some tight defense, box out, and get some better looks on offense; other than that we’re doing alright. After starting 4 seniors and Branden Carlson Craig Smith makes a number of substitutions and puts in his more regular starters.
12:00- Unfortunately, things have gone from bad to worse as Colorado now leads 23-9 and the Buffs are shooting 53.3% from the field and 75% from 3 point range. Jabari Walker is starting to roll for the Buffs as he now has 11 points.
8:00- Another terrible stretch for the Runnin’ Utes as it has felt that the rim on our side was literally sealed before the game because it finally took a Branden Carlson dunk before we could end our scoring drought. The Buffs have extended their lead to 30-13 and are shooting above 55% from the field and 75% from 3 point range. The Utes have managed a few stops but are giving up too many second-chance opportunities as we have been outrebounded 15-7. The Utes have to close the gap before halftime.
4:00- My goodness can someone please box out Evan Battey who has had multiple second chance opportunities which have led to 14 points for him so far. The Utes are definitely playing much tougher defense and starting to get better offensive consistency after David Jenkins Jr. managed to hit a few 3’s and drew some fouls to get to the free-throw line. The Utes need other players to step up offensively and must get this game to single digits heading into halftime.
0:00- About the only positive I can come up with from the first half is that I can’t imagine it can get much worse in the second half. The Buffaloes lead 50-39 as Evan Battey leads all scorers with 19 points and Jabari Walker has 13 points; David Jenkins Jr. leads the Utes with 14 points and is basically our only offense so far. The Runnin’ Utes are shooting 40% from the field compared to 55.9% for the Buffs and 33.3% from 3 points range compared to a blistering 69.2% for the Buffs as they have hit 9 3’s. The Buffaloes have outrebounded the Utes 23-11. The Utes have had little offense (outside of David Jenkins Jr.) and have been poor defensively as we have given up far too many easy baskets in addition to a number of open 3 point looks. The Utes will have to make a serious charge in the second half because Colorado came to play tonight. Let’s battle back Utes!
15:00- I definitely spoke too soon when I said it couldn’t get worse because Colorado has been relentless and lead 60-35 with Jabari Walker at the line with the opportunity for a 3 point play after the timeout. The Utes have to get a hand constantly in the face of Evan Battey because he is just not missing from 3 point range and he is more than willing to keep shooting. Branden Carlson has managed to knock down a couple of 3’s but the Buffs are just playing tougher on both ends of the court.
12:00- Utah is trying to slowly chip away at the huge Colorado lead but they still trail 67-44. It took David Jenkins Jr. a while to get into the second half but once he did he immediately knocked down a few shots to give some life to Utah’s offense. Unfortunately, Colorado has had an answer every single time and has continued to play tough defense and not give the Utes any easy opportunities. The Utes could definitely use a lengthy Colorado scoring drought right about now.
8:00- Not much has changed as Colorado with a dominant 75-51 lead over the Runnin’ Utes. Evan Battey now has 25 points and even when Utah cut the lead to 18 the Buffs immediately responded by hitting a few 3’s and shutting down the Utes on offense. It seems that the goal at this point is just to get it to a more respectable margin. Really tough night overall for the Runnin’ Utes.
6:00- Finally some sign of life from the Utes as they have finally lived up to their Running’ Utes title tonight with solid defense leading to a quick transition basket from Jaxon Brenchley prompting a quick timeout from Colorado as the Utes trail the Buffs 78-59.
3:00- The Utes are finally showing some fight but it’s disappointing that it took until 6 minutes remaining in the game for us to show some urgency. The Utes have managed to cut the Buffs lead to 80-65. The Utes had some excellent ball movement leading to an open 3 from Madsen. Craig Smith has played a small lineup the last few minutes on defense as they are flying around to the basketball and pressuring the Buffs which has led to some turnovers.
Tough night all over for the Runnin’ Utes as the Buffs dominate en route to a relatively easy 84-71 victory. The Utes started the game with 4 Seniors and despite a bright start from David Jenkins Jr. it was Evan Battey and Jabari Walker who were in a rhythm all night for the Buffs. Evan Battey scored 27 points and was 6-8 from 3 point range and Jabari Walker scored 22 points. The Buffs shot 50.8% from the field compared to 44.4% for the Utes but where the Buffs really punished the Utes was in 3’s as the Buffs hit an insane 60.9% and had 14 3’s on the night compared to 34.8% for the Utes. The Utes just never seemed up for this game and didn’t show any of their typical urgency and tempo until there were about 6 minutes left in the game. Evan Battey led all scorers with 27 points and David Jenkins Jr. led the Utes with 18 points. With the loss, the Utes will enter the PAC 12 Tournament as a #11 seed next Wednesday night.
Next Up: #11 Utah Runnin’ Utes vs #6 Washington Huskies on Wednesday, March 9 at 9:30 pm MT