Utah crushes Colorado, improves to 3-0 in conference play

Utah+crushes+Colorado%2C+improves+to+3-0+in+conference+play

By Griffin Adams and Griffin Adams

UTAH vs Colorado 12

Ever since both schools entered the Pac-12, many have said the competition between Utah and Colorado is a natural rivalry. However, that “rivalry” hasn’t picked up much steam, save for a few instances here and there.

That is, until Wednesday night in the Huntsman Center.

Thanks to a well-balanced offense that saw nearly everyone score and a tenacious defense that forced 18 turnovers, the No. 9 Runnin’ Utes ran Colorado out of the gym in a chippy contest 74-49.

“If you really hang your hat on the defensive end of the floor and are committed to getting stops, then I’m a firm believer that the offense is going to be easier, doing things the right way,” Krystkowiak said of his team’s performance tonight.

Utah was led by guards Brandon Taylor, who finished with 14 points, five assists and six rebounds, and Delon Wright, who registered 13 points, six assists and four steals. On top of forcing nearly 20 turnovers, the Utes won yet another rebounding battle, 37-30, and showed the rest of the conference their defense is not to be messed with.

“I take a lot of pride in my defense,” Taylor said. “I take pride in trying to stop the guys and my defensive assignment.”

And seriously, don’t mess with the Utes. Throughout the game, there were a number of occasions that saw aggressive play from both sides, that at times was questionable. The most notable was when Colorado point guard Askia Booker talked smack to Krystkowiak in front of the Utah bench. This led to some jawing back and forth between the two teams and may have provided some extra motivation for the Utes.

“That’s just heat-of-the-moment stuff,” Krystkowiak said. “I don’t know about our guys, but I know it fired me up. I don’t know if they were watching or not, but I know sometimes I get a little carried away, it’s the nature of the game. [Booker’s] a senior that we’ve faced each other a few times and I probably need to do a better job or putting my big-boy pants on next time and not getting involved.”

Early on Wednesday night, it seemed as if the Buffaloes might have a chance. After five minutes of play the visiting team held a four-point advantage, but that was as good as it would get for Colorado.

During that 12-8 run to start the game, the Buffaloes lost a key cog in their offense when forward Xavier Johnson went down with a high ankle sprain, that caused him to miss the remainder of the contest. Johnson has been a solid contributor all season long and his team missed him on the court.

“I like that kid, we spent two weeks going to China and he’s a special, unique kid and you never want to see anybody getting hurt,” Krystkowiak said of the injury.

After seeing an early deficit and the injury, the Utes responded by going on a 21-3 run that lasted until nearly the end of the first half. Utah was helped by Colorado’s top two scorers, Booker and Josh Scott, both being on the bench for lengthened periods of time due to foul trouble.

The Utes entered halftime with just a 31-21 advantage, but any hope Colorado had of coming back was quickly removed from the Huntsman Center once the second half was underway.

Thanks to a few timely three pointers and brief Wright takeover – highlighted by a dunk after he split two defenders – Utah went on a 21-7 run to stretch the lead to 23 points with 13:41 remaining in the second half.

From then on, it was the Ute show as the players had more flexibility when it came to their shot selection. And even Wright proved not to be invincible, when Taylor tossed the orange up above the rim for a Wright to slam down, but the Utah star couldn’t quite send it home, slamming it off the rim.

“I just missed it, I wasn’t expecting him to throw it, honestly,” Wright said. “If I would have, I would have made it for sure.”

With Krystkowiak utilizing the end of his bench, seldom-used Kyle Kuzma even got in on the action from behind the arc, knocking down two three-point shots of his own.

Colorado was led by Booker with 12 points and 6 rebounds and Jaron Hopkins with 12 points of his own.

Overall, it wasn’t a one man that stole the show Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, but rather a well-oiled machine that has hit Pac-12 play running.

“We play as a team. There are no individuals,” Taylor said. “It helps, the way we share the ball offensively. Then if you’re able to get stops, that’s even better. It’s a good feeling to get out and get running.”

Utah returns to action when it travels to Arizona State, Jan. 15.

 

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