Runnin’ Utes square off against Booker, Buffs

By Griffin Adams and Griffin Adams

The last time No. 13 Utah squared off against Colorado, the Utes had the backing of their home crowd in the Huntsman Center and cruised to a 74-49 victory over the Buffaloes. However, you would’ve thought the game took place in Boulder the way Colorado point guard Askia Booker was conducting himself throughout the contest.

Upon the start of the game, Booker carried a cocky demeanor that showed from the pre-tip handshakes. As the clock ran, Booker’s confidence became more and more clear to the point of trash talking, even to Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak.

Despite there being a little banter between Booker and some of the Utes, point guard Delon Wright claims there’s nothing but respect for his Buffalo counterpart, and that Utah needs to lock him down.

“He’s a good player,” Wright said. “All-Pac-12 type of player. We have to be ready to play good defense on him and not let him score easy buckets.”

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Booker is currently on a hot streak for Colorado, leading the Buffaloes in scoring their last three games, including a 43-point outburst in a triple-overtime victory at USC. There’s no doubt the guard can score the basketball, but it’s his confidence that really separates him from the other guards in the conference.

“When you make shots and you have consecutive games where you’re doing really good, you just get more confidence and you build off of that,” said forward Jordan Loveridge.

Between the made buckets and the trash talk, Booker provided a sense of rivalry in the last matchup between the two teams. With Utah-BYU taking a brief hiatus in football, many are wondering who will replace the Cougars as the Utes’ rival.

There are teams on campus, such as the women’s volleyball team, that do, in fact, see the Buffaloes as a rival. But according to Loveridge, who is familiar with Utah’s history due to him growing up in nearby West Jordan, there is no rivalry between the two teams.

“I’ve never really thought of it as a rivalry too much,” Loveridge said. “I just think of it as another good Pac-12 team that we’re gonna play, and [the Buffaloes] play tough like every other team.”

With this game taking place in Boulder, it marks the third straight game the Utes will play on the road. The Utes were upset by revenge-minded UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, but rebounded with a dominating performance over USC to register a split in Los Angeles.

While it was a return home for some of the L.A. players on the Utah roster, the Utes are ready to finish up the road trip and return to the Huntsman with a win, not just in this game.

“I feel like we have a target on our back for these teams that we already beat,” Wright said. “I still feel like we shouldn’t have lost a game. I don’t expect us to lose another game.”

Tip off between the Utes and Buffaloes is scheduled for 8 p.m.

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