What went right: After getting outrebounded 21-13 in the first half, CU enjoyed a 20-12 edge in the second half.
What went wrong: After a recent run of improved defense the Buffs struggled in that department Thursday, allowing the Utes to finish with a .553 overall mark from the floor and a 9-for-19 showing on 3-pointers.
Star of the game: Derrick White. CU's senior guard had another stellar all-around game, finishing with 31 points, six rebounds, five assists, and four blocks.
What's next: With only one game this week, the Buffs will take a couple days off before getting ready to host Stanford on March 2 (7 p.m., ESPN2)
There is something about this matchup that brings out the best in Utah.
And also often brings out the worst in the Colorado Buffaloes.
On Thursday night the Pac-12 Conference rivals met once again at the Coors Events Center, and the Buffs had every reason to believe their six-game losing streak against the Utes could finally come to an end. Not only did the Utes bright a four-game road losing streak into the contest, which included a loss against an Oregon State team that had been winless in league play, but the Utes also suffered the sort of abrupt and unexpected suspension that has marked CU's season with the announcement Thursday evening that freshman Devon Daniels would be unavailable.
None of it mattered, as the Utes continued their winning ways against CU with an 86-81 victory. It was Utah's seventh consecutive win against the Buffs and its third straight at the Coors Events Center. The result also snapped a four-game home win streak for the Buffs.
Even without Daniels, Utah's fourth-leading scorer at 10.3 points a game, the Utes still managed to post a .553 mark from the field.
"Our defense wasn't good enough tonight. Utah just came in here and schooled us," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "For us to beat anybody on our league, especially a team like Utah who is as efficient and good as they are offensively, we can't have as many breakdowns as we had. We didn't guard the 3-point line. We didn't guard the basket. We didn't guard the ball. Our ball-screen defense was atrocious and we knew going into the game it was going to be a key. It wasn't good enough and it cost us a game."
Utah led by seven points at halftime but CU opened the second half with a 7-2 burst to battle within three points. The Utes, though, scored the next five points to pad their lead. The Buffs once again pulled within four points on a pair of Wesley Gordon free throws with 11 minutes, 16 seconds remaining, but Utah answered six straight points and eventually reestablished a 10-point lead with 4:37 left.
CU was unable to make it a one-possession game until a 3-pointer by Derrick White cut Utah's lead to 76-73 with 1:36 to go, and three free throws from Dom Collier got the Buffs within two with 40.9 seconds left.
Utah's Tyler Rawson made just 1-of-2 free throws with 37.8 seconds left to keep the Utes' lead at three points, a potential tying 3-point attempt from Collier went in and out. One free throw from Utah's Kyle Kuzma kept the Utes' lead at 82-78, but White was able to answer with just 1-of-2 with 21.9 seconds left. Rawson and Kuzma, though, combined to go 4-for-4 at the free throw line in the final 20 seconds to seal it for Utah.
White enjoyed a strong all-around game for the Buffs, finishing with 31 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Kuzma paced the Utes with 25 points.
CU took its only lead on a 3-pointer from Lucas Siewert about midway through the opening period, but the Utes immediately reeled off a 19-5 run to take control. CU never led the rest of the way.
"We didn't play very smart. We didn't play very together I thought in the first half," Boyle said. "Our offense got selfish and we took bad shots. That cause some problems for us. I thought in the second half our offense was much better. We shared the ball. We attacked the paint. But our defense wasn't good enough the whole game. That's why we lost.
UTAH 86, COLORADO 81
UTAH (18-10, 9-7)
Collette 5-7 3-4 14, Kuzma 7-11 10-12 25, Bonam 3-4 4-4 12, Zamora 3-6 0-0 8, Bealer 3-7 0-0 8, Rawson 2-3 3-4 8, J.Johnson 2-2 1-2 5, Van Dyke 0-1 0-0 0, Barefield 1-6 4-6 6. Totals 26-47 25-32 86.
COLORADO (16-13, 6-10)
Gordon 4-4 4-5 12, White 10-17 7-9 31, Collier 1-6 6-8 8, King 5-8 0-0 12, X.Johnson 2-7 3-4 8, Siewert 2-5 0-0 5, Miller 2-4 1-2 5, Fortune 0-5 0-0 0, Akyazili 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 21-28 81.
Halftime — Utah 37-29. 3-point goals — Utah 9-19 (Bonam 2-2, Zamora 2-5, Bealer 2-5, Collette 1-1, Rawson 1-2, Kuzma 1-2, Van Dyke 0-1, Barefield 0-1), Colorado 8-24 (White 4-7, King 2-4, Siewert 1-3, X.Johnson 1-4, Fortune 0-1, Brown 0-2, Collier 0-3). Fouled out — Bonam. Rebounds — Utah 33 (J.Johnson 7), Colorado 30 (White 6). Assists — Utah 14 (Van Dyke, Bonam, Barefield 3), Colorado 13 (White 5). Total fouls — Utah 24, Colorado 24.