SALT LAKE CITY — It took a while, but eventually the Colorado Buffaloes finally decided enough was enough with the nightmares in Utah.
After a miserable first half, the Buffs caught fire after halftime to rally past Utah for a 65-58 win in a Pac-12 Conference battle Monday afternoon at the Huntsman Center. The win ended an eight-game losing streak for the Buffs at Utah dating back to 2012.
More importantly, the Buffs improved to 3-2 in the Pac-12 with a 2-2 mark in league games on the road. There remains plenty of basketball yet to play, but CU has played its way into an enviable spot with nine of its final 15 Pac-12 games at home.
“It was simple — we just needed to pick our defensive intensity up,” CU point guard McKinley Wright IV said. “In the first half we missed a lot of layups and we let that affect how we played on the defensive end. Coach (Tad Boyle) came in at halftime and got on us, and we responded to his message.”
CU shot just .273 (9-for-33) during the first half and missed at least five open layups. Utah, meanwhile, shot .548 in the first half to build a 37-27 lead at the break.
Yet the Buffs returned to the floor with a completely different energy level, immediately reeling off a 15-0 run to open the second half and take the lead for good. Senior D’Shawn Schwartz, who missed a couple of those first-half layups, scored two of the first three baskets in that run, and it was capped by a Wright-to-Jeriah Horne layup that gave the Buffs a five-point lead and also secured a piece of CU basketball history.
That assist was Wright’s fourth of the game and the 562nd of his career, tying Jay Humphries’ all-time CU record. Wright is all but certain to take the record for himself when CU hosts Cal on Thursday afternoon in what will be his 112th game with the Buffs. Humphries compiled his 562 career assists in exactly 112 games at CU.
“Obviously tying Jay Humphries, what an accomplishment,” Boyle said. “I just wish our fans could be in the arena so they could see him, and we’d stop the dang game and give him the game ball. We probably won’t do that. We’ll just keep playing and let him keep racking them up. McKinley is a special player.”
Although the Buffs led the rest of the way after their 15-0 run, Utah didn’t go away quietly. The Utes remained within a point after a driving bucket by Timmy Allen with just over 3 minutes remaining, but CU scored eight of the next 10 points to pull away.
Freshman Jabari Walker shook off two straight foul-filled outings to post the first double-double of his career, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Schwartz posted the second double-double of his career — both of which have occurred within the past two weeks — by recording 15 points to go with a career-best 15 rebounds.
Wright suffered through a tough shooting day, going 2-for-8 with nine points, but Evan Battey went 6-for-7 at the free throw line before finishing with 10 points and six rebounds. CU dominated the glass, outrebounding Utah 49-31.
“The key was coming out of that second half, we got three straight stops and scored on our first possession,” Boyle said. “We kind of got our energies going. Then it was a battle from there.”
What went right: The Buffs held Utah to a .333 mark after halftime after the Utes shot nearly 55% in the first half. CU also outrebounded the Utes 49-31 and turned 15 offensive rebounds into a 13-2 advantage on second-chance points.
What went wrong: CU struggled to a .273 mark in the first half (9-for-33) and finished just 5-for-19 on 3-pointers.
Star of the game: Jabari Walker. The freshman forward kept the Buffs in the game early with 10 first-half points, and he finished with the first double-double of his career with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
What’s next: A busy week for the Buffs continues at home Thursday afternoon against Cal (Noon, Pac-12 Networks).
Colorado 65, Utah 58
COLORADO (9-3, 3-2 Pac-12)
Battey 2-6 6-7 10, Horne 2-4 0-0 4, Parquet 1-6 3-4 5, Wright 2-8 4-7 9, Schwartz 6-15 2-2 15, Daniels 2-6 0-0 5, Walker 5-8 3-4 15, Clifford 0-4 0-0 0, Barthelemy 0-1 0-0 0, da Silva 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 21-60 18-24 65.
UTAH (4-5, 1-4 Pac-12)
Allen 9-16 1-5 19, Battin 1-7 0-0 2, Jantunen 3-3 0-0 6, Jones 0-3 0-2 0, Larsson 1-2 0-0 3, Plummer 5-11 0-1 12, Carlson 4-6 0-2 8, Martinez 3-9 1-1 8, Brenchley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-58 2-11 58.
Halftime — Utah 37-27. 3-point goals — Colorado 5-19 (Walker 2-2, Daniels 1-3, Wright 1-4, Schwartz 1-5, Horne 0-1, Clifford 0-2, Parquet 0-2), Utah 4-19 (Plummer 2-5, Larsson 1-1, Martinez 1-6, Allen 0-1, Brenchley 0-1, Jones 0-2, Battin 0-3). Rebounds — Colorado 49 (Schwartz 15), Utah 31 (Battin, Carlson 9). Assists — Colorado 11 (Wright 4), Utah 13 (Allen, Jones 4). Total fouls — Colorado 14, Utah 21.