For thirty-two minutes, Senior Night at the Huntsman Center was an offensive nightmare. The final eight minutes was a perfect summary of Utah’s season: grinding through adversity, and doing just enough to win.
SALT LAKE CITY—For thirty-two minutes, Senior Night at the Huntsman Center was an offensive nightmare. The final eight minutes was a perfect summary of Utah’s season: grinding through adversity, and doing just enough to win.
The #13 Utah Utes (24-7, 13-5 Pac-12) came back from a 14-point deficit with 7:24 to play to beat the Colorado Buffaloes (21-10, 10-8 Pac-12), 57-55.
“It says that we are really passionate about winning,” said senior forward Jordan Loveridge. “We know how important every game is, especially here on out.”
Trailing 45-31 with 7:24 to play in the game, the Utes huddled up during the media timeout before senior guard Brandon Taylor attempted a pair of free throws.
“Before our guys got a chance to sit down, I let them know that I’m okay with losing,” said head coach Larry Krystkowiak. “I’m not fearing losing, and you shouldn’t be fearing losing, but we’re going to go down swinging.”
“Going down swinging” tonight meant a 19-0 run after shooting 12-46 (26%) from the floor to that point. Taylor made one of his free throws to end Utah’s scoring drought of 6:46. The sellout crowd came alive after Loveridge banked a deep three-pointer high off the backboard to give Utah a much-needed field goal, followed by a Lorenzo Bonam layup. The Utes were still down by eight, but the previously agitated and frustrated crowd was on their feet, and the arena noise was deafening.
“That’s when the building kind of came alive,” Krystkowiak said. “It was a struggle for us offensively. None of us wanted to lose, but my guess is there’s a little piece of each of [the seniors] that really didn’t want to lose, so a lot of credit to them.”
Seniors Dakarai Tucker, Taylor, and Loveridge scored 17 of Utah’s final 25 points.
“Confidence is a big thing, and I thought for about 32 minutes, we didn’t have a whole lot of it,” Krystkowiak said. “Missing a bunch of shots, that kinda sucks the life out of you a little bit. But at the 8-minute mark, I talked about, ‘hey, we gotta play as if this hasn’t happened. The long week, all the missed shots, we gotta put ourselves in the present tense, and let’s battle.’ We started talking about believing a little bit, and lo and behold, it happened.”
Combined with better shooting, the Utes locked down their defensive effort on the Buffaloes, forcing them into a scoring drought of 5:22 before Tre’Shaun Fortune hit a stepback fadeaway to bring the score back within three. Colorado got the score as close as 53-52 on a Fortune and-one layup, but Utah never surrendered the lead. The Buffaloes finished the game making just two of their last twelve field goals.
Seniors Jeremy Olsen (retired, now a team manager), Austin Eastman (a graduate student), Tucker, Taylor, and Loveridge were honored on the court before starting lineups were announced.
The Utes are locked into the second seed of the Pac-12 tournament next week in Las Vegas. They will play the winner of Wednesday’s 10th-seed UCLA and 7th-seed USC at 7:00 MT on Thursday. Pregame coverage will begin at 5:00 MT on ESPN 700.
Larry Krystkowiak Postgame:
Jordan Loveridge, Jakob Poeltl Postgame:
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