BOULDER, Colo. — It was quite an eight-day span for the Utah Utes on the road. Their journey began with an 80-77 overtime win at No. 21 Arizona State. That was followed by a 74-73 setback at 11th-ranked Arizona.
Then came a crash, of sorts — Friday’s 67-55 loss to Colorado at the Coors Events Center. It snapped a seven-game winning streak for Utah in the series and dropped the Utes to 13-9 overall and 5-6 in Pac-12 play.
“They’re a good team. I don’t think we took their best shot tonight,” said Colorado coach Tad Boyle. “I don’t think they played their ‘A’ game. But I would like to think our effort and intensity had something to do with that.”
Utah didn’t shoot the ball well, particularly in the first half. The Utes were 9-of-33 (27.3 percent), including just 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) accuracy from 3-point range. They didn’t score in the final 5:17 as Colorado built a 27-20 halftime edge. The Buffaloes went on to lead by 21 points in the second half as the Utes continued to struggle. They didn’t have a single scorer finish in double-figures.
“Offensively, we took a step back and got a little bit out of sync,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “The zone offense was good. I thought we took some good shots, but we could have taken great shots.”
The difference, thereof, proved costly on a night when Krystkowiak thought the Utes were pretty good on defense. The Buffaloes (13-10, 5-6) shot 43.1 percent from the field. However, they held crucial advantages in fast break points (15-5) and points off of turnovers (11-7). Freshman guard McKinley Wright was particularly good of transition and wound up with 21 points.
“They played hard as their teams always do. Not to discredit their effort — I’m not saying they didn’t play a big part in the win — but we had a bunch of open looks that we missed,” Krystkowiak said. “Those kids just seemed like they wanted it a little more and played with some energy.”
Road fatigue may have been a factor. So, too, was the heartache that Krystkowiak and the Utes felt after learning that Jon M. Huntsman Sr. had passed away earlier in the day. Krystkowiak admitted he had “a rough day” after losing his friend. However, he declined to make excuses.
“They played some good defense, and we did some things out of sort — a little out of character,” Krystkowiak said. “We didn’t do some things that we necessarily hang our hat on, had some turnovers and got a little bit sloppy — and kind of got what we deserved.”
Going home, where the Utes will face Stanford and California this week in the Huntsman Center, may help them get back on track. They’ve played more road games than any team in the Pac-12, thus far, but have five of their final seven in Salt Lake City.
“You can’t take anything for granted at this point,” said junior guard Parker Van Dyke. “In the Pac-12, anyone can beat anyone. Every game, every night is a tough game. But we’ve got to take advantage of these home games that we have. We have the potential and the capability of winning out.”