Justin Bibbins led the Utah men’s basketball team with 24 points in a 64-54 victory over Colorado that helped the Utes clinch the third seed and a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.
It was a “tale of two halves,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Overall, the Utes shot 40 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3-ppoint range, but they allowed Colorado to score 34 points in the paint, something which can be attributed to senior forward David Collette going down with an ankle injury early in the game.
In the first half, the Utes went on a 27-9 run in the last 12 minutes to take a 41-24 lead into halftime. Everything seemed to be working for Utah, minus Collette exiting the game. Both Bibbins and Donnie Tillman went into the locker room with double-digit points, something no Ute had through the entire game when they last faced Colorado.
But in the second half, Utah’s offense went missing. Through the first 10 minutes, Utah put up only five points, which included a seven-minute stretch in which the team didn’t score any points. With 6:30 remaining in the game, Utah even had more second half team fouls (nine) than they had second half points (eight).
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Bibbins said. “We made a run in the first half, then they made a run on us in the second half.”
Despite the offensive struggles, the Utah defense did enough to thwart Colorado’s attempts at a comeback; the Buffaloes never cut the Utes’ lead to less than four points.
Chris Seeley was one of the Utes who made a big impact on the defensive side. The freshman forward saw increased minutes after the injury to Collette, and he capitalized by recording two blocks in 12 minutes on the court.
“We had a shot blocking presence with Chris, he got his hands on quite a few,” Krystkowiak said.
Sedrick Barefield also played a critical role for the Utes. The junior guard returned after missing the previous two games from injury and scored 14 points, 10 of which came from the free throw line where he shot 100 percent.
After the game, Krystkowiak revealed Collette had gone to the hospital during the game where it was determined Collette only sustained a sprained ankle. Krystkowiak said he is hopeful the Utes’ first round bye will allow Collette the time he needs to get better.
Utah’s first game in the Pac-12 tournament will be on Thursday, Feb. 8 at 9:30 MT. They will play the winner of the game between the sixth and 11th seeded teams.