Utah junior guard Sedrick Barefield darted in front of a pass intended for Colorado’s star freshman point guard McKinley Wright IV for a steal near half-court with 30 seconds remaining to finally end the threat and start the celebration Saturday night in the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Barefield, who’d missed the previous two games with a rib injury, played a pivotal role off the bench in Utah’s 64-54 win over the Buffaloes to clinch third place in the Pac-12.
Playing in his first game since he got injured in a four-minute stint at Washington State on Feb. 17, Barefield scored 14 points and played 25 minutes. He was 2 of 7 from the field, but made all 10 of his free throws — including going 6 for 6 in the final 61/2 minutes.
He also spent the second half matched up on Wright, who torched the Utes for 21 points and four assists when the Buffaloes beat the Utes last month in Colorado.
“I obviously want to make shots, but when you’re not, you’ve just got to find other ways [to contribute],” Barefield said. “We were in the bonus, and I got to the free-throw line a little bit. Then we wanted to put some size on Wright, so they put me on him instead of Justin.
“It paid off a little bit. He had some tough shots, and a lot of the offense is predicated around him. Overall, as a team we did a good job on him.”
While Barefield didn’t completely shut down Wright, who had 12 second-half points and two turnovers, his on-ball defense allowed the Utes to not wear out senior point guard Justin Bibbins on both ends of the floor.
“He was huge,” Bibbins said of Barefield. “He got that last steal at the end. He made plays. I was able to just get a break on the court because he can guard one of their best players and run around, and he can handle the ball a little bit and I can get off the ball. Just having another guard to sub in is so big for us. He’s such a valuable asset for us when he hits shots. We’re really happy that he’s back.”