What went right: Very little, though the Buffs did manage to rally to within 10 points with 3:28 remaining, and CU went without a turnover after halftime.
What went wrong: The Buffs were dominated in all facets through the first 30 minutes, allowing the Utes to build a 28-point lead early in the second half.
Star of the game: Shane Gatling. The junior guard started 0-for-10 but went 6-for-8 the rest of the way, finishing with 21 points, four rebounds and three assists. Gatling also was 6-for-6 at the free throw line.
What’s next: The Buffs will have a quick turnaround with a visit to Cal on Thursday and Stanford on Saturday.
SALT LAKE CITY — This was far too ugly to be chalked up simply to the absence of McKinley Wright.
The Huntsman Center at the University of Utah has never been a kind venue to coach Tad Boyle and the Colorado men’s basketball team. Yet Sunday’s performance saw those road frustrations against the Utes sink to new depths. Outplayed in every facet while Wright and his injured left shoulder watched from the bench, Utah made quick work of the visitors, while hanging a 78-69 defeat on the Buffs.
The loss was the seventh in a row for CU at the Huntsman Center and also gave the Buffs nine losses in their past 10 games against Utah. Overall, it was CU’s sixth loss in the past eight games after an 8-1 start to the season, and it dropped the Buffs to 1-4 in the Pac-12 Conference with two more road games looming this week at Cal and Stanford.
“We can’t hang our hat on anything right now,” Boyle said. “We can’t hang it on our defense. We can’t hang it on our rebounding. We can’t hang it on our offense. We have no solid footing as a basketball team, and that’s a very helpless feeling when you’re a player or you’re a coach. What do you count on? What do you fall back on? We don’t have anything right now.”
Nothing went right for the Buffs from the opening tip. With Wright, the Buffs’ sophomore point guard, missing the first game of his CU career, freshman guard Eli Parquet got the starting nod to ply his defensive skills against Utah sharpshooter Sedrick Barefield. Utah’s senior guard wasn’t impressed, hitting the first two of his five 3-pointers while drawing a foul on Parquet within the game’s first two minutes.
A jumper by freshman Daylen Kountz kept the Buffs within two points just 4 minutes, 27 seconds into the game, but things got ugly for the Buffs from there. The Utes promptly reeled off 12 consecutive points and eventually outscored CU 32-12 over the remainder of the first half.
At the break, the Buffs owned 11 turnovers and were 1-for-7 on 3-pointers. Led by five first-half 3-pointers from Barefield, the Utes were 8-for-12 from long range at halftime.
“I think their zone had us a little weirded out,” CU sophomore D’Shawn Schwartz said. “Barefield got going early and that’s something we had on the scouting report to focus on, and that’s something we didn’t get done tonight. He got them off to a really good start.”
No Buffs player was able to pick up the slack for the absent Wright. Schwartz had averaged 14 points through the first four Pac-12 games but didn’t connect on his first field goal until almost four minutes had passed in the second half. Senior guard Namon Wright missed the previous three games due to a foot injury, but almost immediately upon entering the game in the first half committed a turnover that contributed to a flurry of highlight-reel, fast-break baskets for the Utes.
Tyler Bey, the Buffs’ leading scorer with McKinley Wright sidelined, scored only two points.
A late 12-2 run by CU got the Buffs within 10 with about 3:28 remaining, but the Utes made certain CU got no closer until a Shane Gatling jumper just before the buzzer.
With extra practices last week ahead of this weekend’s one-game slot on the schedule, Boyle had said last week’s workouts were going to the most important of the season. After following that week by laying a particularly odorous egg at Utah, the Buffs will have very little time to regroup before visiting Cal on Thursday.
“I thought we got better defensively at practice this week but obviously I was mistaken,” Boyle said. “I thought we got better offensively and I was sort of mistaken. I just don’t understand how the same team can be so different from one half to the next.”
Utah 78, Colorado 69
Siewert 5-9 1-2 13, Gatling 6-18 6-6 21, Parquet 1-3 0-0 2, Bey 1-7 0-0 2, Schwartz 4-9 2-2 11, Strating 1-4 0-0 2, Battey 2-5 1-4 5, Kountz 6-9 1-2 13, N.Wright 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-64 11-16 69.
Allen 6-9 9-13 21, Battin 3-6 1-1 7, Johnson 0-3 4-6 4, Van Dyke 1-4 0-0 3, Barefield 7-15 3-4 22, Tillman 4-6 2-3 11, Reininger 0-0 0-0 0, Gach 3-6 0-0 7, Morley 0-0 0-0 0, Topalovic 0-4 0-2 0, Rydalch 0-1 0-0 0, King 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 25-55 19-29 78.
Halftime — Utah 41-19. 3-point goals — Colorado 6-17 (Gatling 3-10, Siewert 2-2, Schwartz 1-3, Kountz 0-2), Utah 9-22 (Barefield 5-11, Tillman 1-1, Jones 1-1, Van Dyke 1-3, Gach 1-3, Rydalch 0-1, Battin 0-2). Fouled out — Battey, Bey. Rebounds — Colorado 32 (Bey 10), Utah 35 (Allen 10). Assists — Colorado 10 (Kountz, Gatling 3), Utah 16 (Barefield, Allen 4). Total fouls — Colorado 23, Utah 222.
Pat Rooney: email@example.com or twitter.com/prooney07