Head coach Tad Boyle put it simply following a devastating loss to the Utah Utes on Saturday: “I’m not sure I’ve ever been more disappointed in a loss in my career.”
Enjoying a 19-point lead with eight minutes remaining, Boyle’s University of Colorado Buffaloes collapsed down the stretch in a devastating 77-74 loss. Utes’ guard Will Plummer hit 23 points in the second half to deliver Colorado’s first loss this season at the CU Events Center.
Utah erupted out of the gate, taking a 6-0 lead before CU got back into the game with a quartet of three’s and a 14-2 run. Senior guard Maddox Daniels hit his first of his three three-pointers and CU took a 14-8 lead. Seven separate Buffaloes hit a three-pointer on the afternoon as the Buffs made a season-high 13 shots behind the arc.
Through the first half, CU was shooting a solid 48.4% from the field and 58.8% from deep. Thirty of Colorado’s first half points came from three and the Buffs held a 43-36 lead.
Senior guard McKinley Wright IV committed two fouls early in the first half, leading Boyle to give freshman guard Keeshawn Barthelemy generous playing time. He answered the call with five points and a career-high six assists.
“If he will compete on defense and stay aggressive on offense, he can help this team,” Boyle said. “If there was a bright spot in tonight’s game, and it is hard to look at bright spots after a game like that, but Keeshawn was probably one of them.”
About five minutes into the second half, senior forward Dallas Walton posted up for a layup and CU led 54-40. With 8:46 left in the game, Wright nailed a pair of free throws and Colorado stretched its lead to 19 before Plummer caught fire for Utah. The senior played just one minute in the first half but erupted for 23 points and four three-pointers in the second half.
“Plummer got going, and we had no answer,” Boyle said.
Boyle watched as his lead shrunk with Plummer leading Utah through an 18-2 run. Utah took a 70-69 lead when Plummer was fouled on a three-point make and drained the and-one. Wright said that Plummer was coming off screens well and was able to drive when CU switched on him.
After a Wright three tied the game at 72, Plummer hit a layup to give Utah the eventual lead.
“We just couldn’t get anything to fall on offense and they made a lot of threes down the stretch,” Wright said. “We couldn’t get a stop and the outcome is what it is.”
Junior guard Eli Parquet was perhaps CU’s best chance at keeping Plummer under control but he was limited in minutes with his fouls racking up. Offensively, Colorado cooled off from deep in the second half, making just three three-pointers while shooting 43.3% from the field.
“I’m really, really disappointed in not finishing,” Boyle said. “Look, I love our guys, I love this team. We have good guys, they’re competitors, but we have to figure out how to finish and score the ball and get to the free-throw line or get offensive rebounds when we’re not shooting it well.”
On the boards, senior forward Jeriah Horne tied Daniels and Parquet with five rebounds. Horne echoed Boyle’s sentiment that CU needs to be better down the stretch.
“We just have got to finish games,” he said. “Up 19 points, (we) just got to find a way to close it out. They got hot with threes, so just figuring out a way to shut that down.”
The loss dropped Colorado to 13-5 and 7-4 in Pac-12 play. CU will have another home contest on Thursday against Arizona State at 9 p.m. MST.
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