What went right: Josh Scott played stellar defense against Jakob Poeltl, the Pac-12's leader in field goal percentage, by holding the 7-foot sophomore to a 2-for-8 night.
What went wrong: For the third time in four games CU displayed a troubling habit of struggling in the final minutes, getting outscored 11-2 by Utah over the final 5:25.
Star of the game: George King. The redshirt sophomore made 8-of-10 shots, including a 3-for-4 mark from 3-point range, to lead CU with 21 points.
What's next?: The Buffs continue Pac-12 play at home on Wednesday, 9 p.m., against Oregon State.
In a Pac-12 Conference where nail-biters are expected to be part of the regular routine, the Colorado Buffaloes are displaying an alarming habit of faltering down the stretch.
On Friday night, Utah took full advantage of the Buffs' late-game shortcomings.
Unable to execute in the waning minutes, turnovers and wasted possessions proved too much for CU to overcome, as Utah outscored the hosts 11-2 over the final 5 minutes, 25 seconds to pull out a 56-54 decision Friday night at the Coors Events Center.
Utah's Lorenzo Bonam connected on a driving shot with 1.1 seconds remaining to leave the stunned Buffaloes with their third loss in four games.
"I know for myself I had some turnovers I shouldn't have had to help them get that 11-2 run," CU sophomore George King said. "It's frustrating. I'm frustrated with myself."
CU took a nine-point lead on a 3-pointer from Tre'Shaun Fletcher with 10:28 left and still held a seven-point lead when Josh Fortune connected on a driving layup with 5:25 remaining.
Fortune, though, squandered an opportunity to complete a 3-point play, setting the tone for CU's late slide.
Utah's Jakob Poeltl, who entered the game as the Pac-12's leader in field goal percentage at .687, was largely held in check by CU's Josh Scott but was able to get back on track during the Utes' late surge. Two free throws from Poeltl began a run of nine consecutive points for the Utes, which was capped by a driving layup from Poeltl with 1:39 left that gave Utah a 54-52 lead.
CU's George King capped a big night with an off-balance shot that regained the lead for the Buffs with 1:19 left, and CU's defense promptly forced a critical 30-second violation against the Utes to regain possession.
But an errant pass from Fortune quickly gave the ball back to Utah and, after a timeout, Bonam was isolated against Fortune at the top of the key before driving into the heart of the CU defense to produce the game-winner.
"We have to execute better," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "We have to execute and we have to finish better. It's something we work on in practice and we're going to continue to work on in practice.
"We did not finish, we did not execute, like we're capable of. Players have to make plays down the stretch. Against SMU it was (SMU's) Nic Moore. He made the plays. Tonight it was Lorenzo Bonam. He made the plays."
King recaptured the form that made him an early breakout star for the Buffs, hitting 8-of-10 shots overall and going 3-for-4 from 3-point range before finishing with a game-high 21 points. Scott recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. However, the rest of CU's team besides King and Scott shot just 10-for-38, while 12 turnovers led to 19 points for Utah.
Poeltl shot just 2-for-8 but scored four of his six points during the Utes' game-turning run while also adding 11 rebounds. Bonam entered the game averaging 9.9 points but paced Utah with 17 points.
"They made a good play at the end," Scott said. "You look everywhere else and we didn't do too bad. Offensively we could've been better, but defensively we were there. They made a play at the end, bottom line. It's going to happen."
UTAH 56, COLORADO 54
Loveridge 3-8 0-0 9, Kuzma 4-8 4-5 12, Poeltl 2-8 2-2 6, Taylor 3-9 0-0 7, Bonam 7-12 2-2 17, Chapman 0-2 0-0 0, Wright 1-2 0-0 3, Tucker 1-2 0-0 2, Reyes 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-52 8-9 56.
Gordon 2-10 0-0 4, Scott 5-12 0-0 10, Fletcher 2-4 0-0 5, Collier 3-7 0-0 7, King 8-10 2-2 21, Akyazili 0-2 0-0 0, Talton 0-5 0-0 0, Miller 1-4 1-1 3, Fortune 2-6 0-1 4. Totals 23-60 3-4 54.
Halftime — Utah 26-24. 3-point goals — Utah 6-16 (Loveridge 3-6, Wright 1-1, Bonam 1-2, Taylor 1-5, Kuzma 0-1, Tucker 0-1), Colorado 5-16 (King 3-4, Collier 1-2, Fletcher 1-3, Akyazili 0-1, Talton 0-2, Fortune 0-4). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Utah 31 (Poeltl 11), Colorado 37 (Scott 10). Assists — Utah 8 (Bonam 3), Colorado 12 (Collier, Scott 3). Total Fouls_Utah 11, Colorado 11. A_8,701.