Shell shocked: Furious Utah rally stuns CU Buffs

Devastating defeat for CU as Utes rally from 19 down

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's D'Shawn Schwartz and Utah's Timmy Allen, reach for the rebound during the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's McKinley Wright IV attempts to tie the game at the buzzer at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's McKinley Wright IV gets past Utah's Mikael Jantunen at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's McKinley Wright IV shoots over Utah's Timmy Allen at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado head coach, Tad Boyle, is feeling the pain of Utah's comeback at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's McKinley Wright IV gets past Utah's Mikael Jantunen at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: A ball gets away from Colorado's McKinley Wright and Utah's Pelle Larsson at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's Jeriah Horne passes past Utah's Mikael Jantunen at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's D'Shawn Schwartz and Utah's Timmy Allen, reach for the rebound during the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Utah's Timmy Allen gets a rebound from Colorado's Dallas Walton at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Colorado seniors McKinley Wright IV (25) and Dallas Walton (13) will play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • After four seasons with the Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado Springs native D'Shawn Schwartz expects to use his extra year of eligibility elsewhere. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Daily Camera file photo

    BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's Jabari Walker shoots over Utah's Riley Battin during the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's Keeshawn Barthelemy passes around Utah's Alfonzo Plummer at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's Jeriah Horne drives on Utah's Ryan Jones at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's Evan Battey gets past the Utah defender during the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado head coach, Tad Boyle, is feeling the pain of Utah's comeback at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's Evan Battey shoots over Utah's Brandon Carlson at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's Dallas Walton shoots over Utah's Riley Battin during the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - January 30, 2021: Colorado's Jabari Walker goes up the block the shot of Utah's Timmy Allen at the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

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For the second straight game, the Colorado Buffaloes went into cruise control with a big second-half lead.

This time, it cost them dearly.

Postseason plans and a run at the Pac-12 Conference title are goals that were forced into a dramatic pause on Saturday, as the Buffaloes suffered one of the more shocking setbacks of the Tad Boyle era. With a win all but assured in the latter stages of the second half, CU watched visiting Utah rally from a 19-point deficit with less than 9 minutes remaining to hand the Buffs a stunning 77-74 defeat at the CU Events Center.

CU led 65-46 after a pair of free throws by McKinley Wright IV with 8 minutes, 46 seconds remaining, but Utah senior Alfonso Plummer shot the Utes back into the game almost single-handedly as Utah outscored the Buffs 31-9 the rest of the way.

“It’s not like we didn’t talk about the way they could get back in the game. But at some point you’ve got to stop talking about things and you’ve got to do them,” Boyle said. “That was the epitome of not finishing. Plummer got going and we had no answer.”

Plummer didn’t score in the first half and was on the floor for just 1:29 after picking up two quick fouls. He finished with 23 points, going 4-for-6 on 3-pointers, the first three of which he hit while Utah reeled off 18 of 20 points to start its 31-9 finish. Plummer’s final 3-pointer resulted in a go-ahead 4-point play with 3:25 to go as he connected while getting fouled by CU senior Maddox Daniels. That play was part of a 26-4 Utah run that turned that 65-46 CU lead into a 72-69 edge for the Utes.

Wright tied the game at 72-72 on a 3-pointer, but Utah regained the lead on a driving layup from Plummer. After Wright missed on another 3-point attempt, Plummer drained a tough fade-away to give Utah a 76-72 lead with 13.8 seconds to go.

Wright kept the Buffs within two points with a layup, and Utah’s Timmy Allen made just 1 of 2 free throws with 6.1 seconds left to give CU a final gasp. But a long 3-point attempt from Wright at the buzzer was blocked.

CU’s perimeter defense has struggled of late, and those struggles continued Saturday. Utah shot 50% overall and 51.6% in the second half. The Buffs have led the nation in free throw shooting for much of the season but were outscored at the line by the largest margin this year, with Utah going 16-for-19 while CU was just 5-for-6.

“We lost track of (Plummer) in some scramble situations and we’re not aware of who’s who,” Boyle said. “We talked about there was two ways they could get back in this game. Number one is if we foul them and put them at the foul line. And number two is if they get hot from three. And they did both.”

The Buffs have been firmly entrenched in the top 20 of the NET and at KenPom.com, but Saturday’s loss will silence the chatter wondering why a CU team faring so well in analytical rankings was failing to crack the AP Top 25. One year after a late losing streak soured what otherwise had been a stellar season, the Buffs will have plenty of soul searching to sort through to make sure a gut-wrenching defeat doesn’t erode into a trend.

“We’ve got to move on, learn from it. Back to the drawing board,” Wright said. “We couldn’t get anything to fall on offense and they made a lot of threes down the stretch. That was really it. We couldn’t get a stop, and the outcome is what it is.”

Fast break

What went right: CU shot .459 overall and went 13-for-28 on 3-pointers.

What went wrong: Utah shot .516 in the second half and outrebounded the Buffs 31-30. Utah outscored the Buffs 31-9 after CU held a 19-point lead with 8:46 remaining.

Star of the game: It was tough to award game MVP honors after this one, but senior Jeriah Horne 4-for-7 with 10 points and five rebounds.

What’s next: The Buffs will have time to regroup before hosting Arizona State on Thursday (9 p.m., ESPN2 or ESPNU).

Utah 77, Colorado 74
UTAH (7-7, 4-6 Pac-12)
Allen 5-14 6-8 17, Jantunen 4-6 1-2 9, Carlson 1-3 2-2 4, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Larsson 3-7 0-0 8, Battin 4-6 0-0 9, Martinez 1-2 4-4 7, Plummer 8-13 3-3 23, Thioune 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-52 16-19 77.
COLORADO (13-5, 7-4 Pac-12)
Battey 3-6 1-1 7, Horne 4-7 0-0 10, Parquet 2-5 0-0 6, Wright 5-14 2-2 15, Schwartz 4-8 0-0 9, Barthelemy 2-8 0-0 5, Daniels 3-6 0-1 9, Walker 1-3 2-2 5, Walton 4-4 0-0 8, Clifford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-61 5-6 74.
Halftime — Colorado 43-36. 3-point goals — Utah 9-20 (Plummer 4-6, Larsson 2-3, Martinez 1-1, Allen 1-3, Battin 1-3, Carlson 0-1, Jones 0-1, Jantunen 0-2), Colorado 13-28 (Daniels 3-5, Wright 3-7, Parquet 2-3, Horne 2-4, Walker 1-2, Schwartz 1-3, Barthelemy 1-4). Fouled out — Parquet. Rebounds — Utah 31 (Allen 10), Colorado 30 (Horne, Parquet, Daniels 5). Assists — Utah 14 (Allen 4), Colorado 17 (Barthelemy 6). Total fouls — Utah 12, Colorado 20.