SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is starting to look like a Pac-12 championship team.
The Utes are finding ways to overwhelm league opponents on both ends of the court. Colorado is just the latest foe to find no suitable answer for Utah’s tough defense and efficient offense.
Utah blew open the game early in a 74-49 victory over the Buffaloes on Wednesday night. The No. 9 Utes (13-2, 3-0 Pac-12) have won three Pac-12 contests by an average margin of 27 points.
Utah used the same formula that has worked well all season — lock everything down on defense and use those stops to generate easy transition baskets.
“We were able to get into passing lanes and we made smart decisions and stayed patient,” guard Delon Wright said. “It was just a good team effort and good game plan by our coaches.”
Utah scored a combined total of 41 points off turnovers or second-chance baskets. That number didn’t sit well with Colorado coach Tad Boyle afterward.
“You got to fight human nature in this business,” Boyle said. “Human nature is to get your head down. What we got to do is we got to strap it up and keep fighting. Not let that get our heads down. Not let that bother us. It’s easier said than done.”
Ten different players scored for Utah and the Utes had five or more points from eight of those players.
Guard Brandon Taylor led the way with 14 points and Wright added 13 points, six assists and four steals. Guard Dakarai Tucker also added 11 off the bench for the Utes, who won their sixth straight game.
“That’s what makes us special,” Taylor said. “We know how to share the ball. When you share the ball, it’s great. When we play as a team together, we know it’s not just one or two or three individuals.”
Guards Askia Booker and Jaron Hopkins scored 12 points apiece to lead Colorado (9-6, 2-1 Pac-12), which had its lowest point total since a 56-33 loss at Wyoming on Nov. 22. The Buffaloes committed 18 turnovers, leading to 28 points for Utah.
The Buffaloes cut Utah’s double-digit halftime lead to eight at 33-25 on a jumper from Booker. But Utah threw the hammer down after that. Starting with a 3-pointer from Taylor, the Utes made eight consecutive baskets over a four-minute stretch and took a 54-31 lead with 12:55 left.
Utah led by as many as 35 points in the second half, going ahead 73-38 after Taylor made a pair of free throws to finish off a 14-1 run with 4:01 left.
“In the second half, it just seemed like they got a lot of open looks,” Boyle said. “We guarded stuff in the first half well and in the second half we had the same plays and same actions and we didn’t guard them. As a coach, you scratch your head and don’t understand it, especially when you go over it in practice, go over it in scouting reports, go over it in film and you don’t go out and execute.”
Colorado started the game well but quickly faded. Booker and Hopkins each scored baskets on back-to-back possessions to help Colorado take a quick 12-8 lead in the first half.
But what little momentum the Buffaloes generated ground to a halt under a prolonged dry spell on offense.
Utah finally took its first lead at 14-12 when center Jakob Poeltl blocked forward Wesley Gordon’s jumper on one end and scored a layup on the other end. Then the Utes really got cooking when forward Brekkott Chapman drilled a pair of 3-pointers to fuel a 15-0 run.
Taylor finished off the run with a pair of free throws to give Utah a 29-15 lead with 2:14 remaining before halftime.
Colorado endured a scoring drought lasting 8 1/2 minutes and went more than 10 minutes without a field goal before guard Dominque Collier broke through on a layup with 1:40 left in the half. Guard Xavier Talton added a 3-pointer on the next possession, but Utah took a 31-21 lead into the locker room.
“Some teams need to score baskets in order to play hard on defense,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “That is backwards. We
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