It’s a characteristic Utah has developed as a dominant home team.
For about five minutes in seemingly every game at the Huntsman Center, the Utes’ defense tightens. They force turnovers, shots start to fall and they inflict a deadly run on their opponent before a large crowd. It’s helped turn a lot of their home matchups into routs.
StorylinesUtah moves to 8-8 in the Pac-12 with 75-64 home win over Colorado.
» Center Renan Lenz and walk-on Xan Ricketts are honored on senior day.
» Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge lead the Utes with 21 points each.
This was the narrative Saturday afternoon in what became a 75-64 win over Colorado on senior day. Before 12,027, the Buffaloes led by as much as eight in the first half, but went the first 10 minutes after intermission with just one field goal.
By the time the carnage ended, the Utes had scored 23 of 25 points over 15 minutes. Boom. Game over, the look of defeat emanating from the Colorado players over the last 10 minutes.
"We just finally started to play some defense," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "I thought we weren’t playing hard defensively. We had an eight-point deficit and we weren’t playing like we knew we could. We got it even going into halftime, and then came out in the second half and shot the ball as well as we could."
The official number is 70 percent. That’s what the Utes shot in the final 20 minutes, on a mixture of lay-ins and baby jumpers that came on seemingly every possession.
Over the course of the season, life has been easy on Utah when Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright are performing well in the same game. That was the case Saturday, when each scored a game-high 21 points.
It’s the second straight very good game for Loveridge, who added seven rebounds. Wright was dominant in the second half, when he scored all but 2 of his points.
"I thought I was too passive in the first half," Wright said. "I was trying to let the game come to me and I don’t think that was working too well. I thought I got more aggressive in the second half, and I got better results."
Offensively, Utah moved the ball, got open shots and made them. Defensively, the Utes restricted Colorado star Askia Booker to four points and four turnovers on 1-of-8 shooting. Buffaloes sophomore big man Josh Scott was a load inside, going for 17 points and seven rebounds. But only Xavier Johnson scored in double digits (10) to assist him.
Because of this, the game wasn’t in doubt over the final 12 minutes. Senior walk-on Xan Ricketts got to play in his final game at the Huntsman Center, and the last 60 seconds were nothing more than a prolonged request from the crowd for Ricketts to get a shot off any way he could. But he didn’t get an attempt.
"It was good to get this kind of a win on senior day," Loveridge said. "We wanted to send the crowd off the right way. They’ve always been there for us, so we wanted to reward that loyalty."
Utah moves to 19-9 on the season, 8-8 in the Pac-12. It’s the first time the Utes have won as many as 19 games since the 2008-2009 season, and only the second time since 2005. Utah will finish its regular season with a trip to California on Wednesday and Stanford on Saturday.
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