What went right: The Buffs outrebounded Utah 36-34 and held the Utes to 20 points in the first half, the lowest total in a half by a CU opponent this season.
What went wrong: The Buffs committed seven turnovers in the first half, but Utah was only able to turn those giveaways into four points.
Star of the game: George King. The senior posted his sixth double-double of the season and the 13th of his career, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
What's next: The Buffs continue the three-game homestand with the latest home tipoff time of the season, hosting Cal on Wednesday at 9 p.m. (ESPNU).
McKinley Wright hasn't been a part of the Colorado men's basketball program long enough to truly understand the depth of frustration the Buffaloes have experienced against Utah the past four years.
However, CU's freshman guard had heard about it enough over the past week to be more than a little irritated by his team's drought against its regional rival in the Pac-12 Conference.
Shaking off his poorest offensive performance of the season, Wright and the Buffs took out four years of frustration against the Utes on Friday night, ending a seven-game losing streak against Utah with a 67-55 victory.
The Buffs also entered the game having lost their previous three games but were able to open a critical three-game homestand with a victory. CU also played shorthanded, as third-leading scorer Namon Wright missed his first game of the season due to an illness.
"We were on a seven-game losing streak and I wasn't a part of that, but I'm part of this team so I felt like I lost seven times," McKinley Wright said. "I just tried to come out tonight and help the seniors get their first win against Utah. We know how much it means to them. We just came out tonight and played for them."
McKinley Wright went 1-for-10 with a season-low two points last weekend at Arizona State but quickly got back on track against the Utes, going 8-for-12 from the field and finishing with a game-high 21 points — his fifth 20-point outing of the season but his first in Pac-12 play. The freshman point guard also finished with four assists, three rebounds, and just one turnover in 32 minutes.
After a slow shooting start for both teams the Buffs took control by ending the first half on a 10-0 run. McKinley Wright began that late push with a 3-pointer and ended it with a turnaround, bailout jumper just before the first-half buzzer that gave CU a 27-20 lead at the break. The Buffs opened the second half with a 7-3 burst, getting four of those points from McKinley Wright, and steadily pushed their lead to 21 points with 4 minutes, 15 seconds remaining.
"We didn't get their best shot tonight. I don't think they were playing their A-game, but I'd like to think our effort and defensive intensity had something to do with that," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "They had four guys averaging double-figures going into the game and they didn't have any of them meet those numbers."
The Buffs overcame a somewhat ragged start — they committed seven of their 12 turnovers in the first half — by making certain the Utes never got into rhythm offensively. Utah's 20 points in the first half was the lowest total in a half by a CU opponent this season, and the Utes shot just .273 (9-for-33) in the first half.
Fifth-year senior George King, the only CU player who was there for the Buffs' previous win against Utah on Feb. 1, 2014, posted the 13th double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore forward Lucas Siewert recorded a second consecutive double-digit scoring effort for the first time in his career, finishing with 13 points off the bench.
"The one thing you don't really realize about Utah because of maybe what they've done in the past...they take 25 threes a game. They're shooting 38 percent from three as a team. You think of Arizona State as a 3-point shooting team. You think of Washington State as a 3-point shooting team. You don't think of Utah, but they are. Our deal was take away the three, make them make tough twos. Which means they're going to get the ball inside, but we wanted to make those touches really tough."
Colorado 67, Utah 55
UTAH (13-9, 5-6)
Rawson 2-8 0-0 5, Collette 3-6 2-4 8, Tillman 2-6 0-0 5, Van Dyke 2-5 0-0 6, Bibbins 3-11 1-1 7, Jokl 0-0 0-0 0, Seeley 1-3 1-2 3, Johnson 2-4 2-2 6, Barefield 2-8 2-3 7, Popoola 0-0 0-0 0, Caldwell 0-0 0-0 0, Bealer 3-6 0-0 8. Totals 20-57 8-12 55.
COLORADO (13-10, 5-6)
Walton 1-5 0-0 2, Nikolic 0-1 0-2 0, G.King 4-8 2-2 12, M.Wright 8-12 4-4 21, Bey 1-5 1-2 3, Siewert 3-10 4-4 13, Strating 0-0 0-2 0, Repine 0-1 0-0 0, Collier 2-5 2-2 8, Brown 1-2 0-0 2, Martinka 0-0 0-0 0, Schwartz 2-2 0-0 6. Totals 22-51 13-18 67.
Halftime — Colorado 27-20. 3-point goals — Utah 7-23 (Van Dyke 2-4, Bealer 2-4, Tillman 1-2, Barefield 1-3, Rawson 1-4, Seeley 0-1, Bibbins 0-5), Colorado 10-22 (Siewert 3-7, Schwartz 2-2, Collier 2-3, G.King 2-4, M.Wright 1-3, Nikolic 0-1, Brown 0-1, Walton 0-1). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Utah 28 (Johnson, Bibbins 6), Colorado 35 (G.King 10). Assists — Utah 13 (Rawson 4), Colorado 12 (Collier, M.Wright 4). Total fouls — Utah 15, Colorado 16.