Preview: Utah travels to face No. 25 Colorado on Sunday
Before last Saturday's game against No. 9 Oregon, the Utes were expecting a pissed off Ducks team to show up at the Jon M. Huntsman Center — and that's exactly what they got.
Despite hanging tough, and fighting back to take the lead late in the second half, Utah eventually succumbed to the Ducks for its first Pac-12 loss of the season.
“There were a lot of positive things our team did,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said postgame. “Oregon’s always been a positive for us with turnovers, and if you would’ve told me we would’ve turned it over seven times in that game I would have definitely hit the deal button. ... To beat an elite team like that, you’ve got to hit more open shots.”
Now Utah (10-4, 1-1 Pac-12) hits the road to once again, face a pissed off nationally-ranked team coming off a loss — this time being No. 25 Colorado (12-3, 1-1 Pac-12) on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. MST and will be broadcasted on ESPNU.
“They’re one of the top teams (in the league) and they have a lot of firepower back from a year ago,” Krystkowiak said. “They guard very well and share the ball. We’ve got our hands full — we always seem to have some real interesting matchups, there’s not a lot of secrets between the teams in terms of what we do.”
Colorado lost to Oregon State last weekend, just days after taking down Oregon in a big upset that likely earned the Buffaloes that top-25 ranking. But according to head coach Tad Boyle, that loss against the Beavers was because the team felt like it was going to be given the victory after jumping out to a big second half lead.
"The challenge is to get the guys to understand that nothing is going to be given to you," Boyle said after the loss to the Beavers. "I talked to them a lot about earning respect and what we've done over the last two or three four games, we've played to earn some respect, and how quickly that can go away. We earned some beating Dayton and playing the way that we did against Iona, and then beating Oregon in here."
For Krystkowiak, he can trust that sophomore Timmy Allen and the rest of his starting five will show up for the big game.
Allen leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 21.1 points and rebounding at 7.8 per game, while fellow sophomore Both Gach has elevated his play over the past four games, averaging 15.8 points per game and being a legitimate second-scorer for the Utes.
“I really wanted to be aggressive. ... One of my biggest goals is to not just settle and to try and get to the rim,” Gach said after the Oregon game.
Utah averages 78.3 points per game, with 61.1 points on average (78-percent) coming from its starters. If the Utes are going to challenge Colorado's defense — giving up 61.9 points per game — more production will be needed out of its bench.
"No doubt in my mind we're going to need to engage our bench more and that's going to be on me in some regards and some of it's going to be on those guys," Krystkowiak said. "We can't play three or four guys 30 to 35 minutes per game and expect to weather the storm through this conference, so we're trying to encourage guys to step up and simplify things for them."
Colorado is led by McKinley Wright and Tyler Bey, two future all-Pac-12 nominees who make up one of the deadlier inside-out combinations in the conference. Wright is averaging 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game while Bey is a near double-double of 13.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
"They have one of the best point guards in the conference in McKinley Wright and Tyler Bey is one of better bigs in our conference," Krystkowiak said.
Also emerging for the Buffaloes is D'Shawn Schwartz, a sharpshooter who's averaging 11 points per game while knocking down 45.1-percent (32-of-71) from beyond the arc.
Both teams will enter Sunday's contest after having the week off — and will be looking for the win as they travel to face No. 24 Arizona and Arizona State next weekend.
“There’s not going to be a whole lot of massive improvement where you can hit some things,” Krystkowiak said. “Some of the overall concepts that we need to address, rebounding defensive transition, those things we’re stepping into in the next three games.”