Taylor and the Runnin’ Utes shoot past Buffs

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(Courtesy by Matt Sisneros/CU Independent

By Griffin Adams and Griffin Adams

When it rains, it pours.

That was the feeling in the Coors Event Center as shot after shot was falling for the No. 13 Utes, making 13-of-22 three-point shots on their way to a dominating 79-51 win over Colorado in Boulder. Additionally, Utah recorded 20 assists on its 26 made field goals.

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“It was great,” said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak in a postgame interview with ESPN700. “We made some progress and shared the basketball. It was a fun night here in a hostile environment that’s hard place to get a road win.

Utah was led by point guard Brandon Taylor, who made six of those three-pointers on his way to 18 points and six assists. Helping Taylor was Jordan Loveridge, who finished with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Delon Wright, who stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Before the game started, there was both good and bad news for both teams. While Colorado point guard and leading scorer Askia Booker was ruled out for the game, the Buffaloes were getting back post presence Josh Scott, who hasn’t played since the last time they played Utah in Salt Lake City.

“Let’s face it, we caught a break with Askia Booker not playing,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s a whole different deal. If you take 20 points away from our lineup, we’re probably scrambling too.”

At the start, it was clear that Colorado missed Booker’s production. Behind a few layups from big man Jakob Poeltl and a bucket from Wright, the Utes started the game with a 9-2 run that led Buffalo head coach Tad Boyle to call a timeout.

After a Xavier Johnson free throw made it 9-3 early on, things didn’t get much better for Colorado.

Behind a stingy defense, the Buffaloes forced Utah into a tight situation with the shot clock winding down. The ball ended up in backup center Dallyn Bachynski’s hands with one second to go, and he was forced to take the shot. As Krystkowiak held his breath, Bachynski put up a clunky-looking shot that somehow found the bottom of the net.

That play was the middle of eight consecutive points scored by the Utes to build a 17-3 lead, forcing another Colorado timeout.

But it was only a matter of time before Scott made his presence known. After an Xavier Talton three-point miss at the midway point of the first half, Scott navigated his way through the point to get up for the rebound, and tip it back in for two. On the next Buffalo possession, Scott got to the rack again for a quick two to bring Colorado within single digits.

Taylor, one of Utah’s most important players this season, was having a quiet game until the 4:27 mark of the first half. After a Bachynski steal, Taylor got the ball from Kyle Kuzma and drained it from deep. Two minutes later, it was Taylor again from behind the arc.

And he wasn’t done there. With the shot clock off and the final seconds of the first half winding down, Wright was dribbling the ball near half court to set up the last shot. Everyone in the gym thought Wright was going to use the isolation and take it to the rack.

As Wright began to make his move, Taylor slipped from behind the Buff defense and curled up to behind the three-point line. Wright dished the ball to his backcourt mate, and Taylor rose up and sliced the net with his third three-pointer of the half, giving the Runnin’ Utes the 35-23 lead heading into halftime.

Coming out of the locker rooms, Taylor decided he wanted to carry the torch just a bit longer as he led things off with another three-point make on the first shot attempt of the second half.

However, Taylor decided to hand the torch off to Loveridge, as it was the forward’s turn to catch fire from three-point land. Just 43 seconds after his make, Taylor handed the ball off to Loveridge and got the same result as his teammate as Loveridge’s shot made its way through the hoop.

Shortly after, Loveridge splashed in another three-pointer – this time just 44 seconds later – to put the Buffaloes on the ropes early in the second slate, 44-23.

“We knew coming out of locker room that they’d try to fight, especially at home,” Loveridge said. “We just wanted to come out and hit them first.”

While the Utes playing at the time were draining shots from all over the court, the real story for a brief moment was centered around a player on the bench. Wright, who has been Utah’s leader and best player throughout the season, did not start the second half like he normally does. Instead, he was on the sideline being looked at by Utah trainers.

But Utah fans let out a sigh of relief when Wright entered the game with 15:50 remaining and learned that it was just muscle tightness.

While Wright didn’t score too much in the second half, the Utes didn’t really need it. After he re-entered the game, Utah went on a 26-8 run, capped by a Kuzma three-point make that expanded the Utes’ lead, 70-34.

From here on out, Krystkowiak put it in cruise control, using nearly his entire bench as the game closed out and the Utes improved to 18-4.

The Buffaloes were led in scoring by bench player Dominique Collier with 11 points and Scott, who registered 10 points and also grabbed seven boards.

With the win and an earlier loss by Arizona to Arizona State, Utah pulls into a first-place tie atop the Pac-12 with the Wildcats and, according to Loveridge, the Utes are feeling good about it.

“That’s big, especially at this point in the season,” Loveridge said about the tie on the show. “We definitely want to try and compete at the top of the Pac-12, that’s been a goal of ours. I feel like tonight, we got ourselves in a good spot.”

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@GriffDoug