SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The inside of the Huntsman Center was near silent on Senior Night as No. 13 Utah was being throttled by Colorado in the second half Saturday night. The Utes couldn’t buy a basket and the Buffaloes had ripped off a 16-0 run to take a 14-point lead.
Then Jordan Loveridge banked in a 3-pointer that he admitted was not intentional.
Jakob Poetl had 16 points and 13 rebounds and No. 13 Utah rallied for a 57-55 victory over Colorado in the regular-season finale.
The Utes go into the Pac-12 Tournament as the No. 2 seed next week. The Buffaloes will be the No. 5 seed.
”Just looking at each other, you could feel it in the arena,” Loveridge said. ”The energy got back in the arena. I don’t think anyone had to say anything. We knew how important the game was. Once you get on a run and everything starts to click one thing after another.”
Colorado seemed to put the game away with that 16-0 run that pushed the lead to 45-31. The Utes were 0 for 9 during that stretch with four turnovers and went scoreless for nearly seven minutes.
Then the Utes found that spark.
They responded with their own 19-0 run as Loveridge, Brandon Taylor and Lorenzo Bonam made plays on both ends of the floor.
Bonam finished with 16 points and Loveridge added 10.
Josh Scott led Colorado with 11 points while Tory Miller scored seven off the bench.
”It was a real emotional couple days,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. ”For me and our guys with their families (here), it was a little bit surreal.
”We didn’t shoot the ball well. It looked like a football score for quite a long time. … It was pretty neat. We went small at the end and got the stops that we needed. The emotion in the building was really cool. It was quite a fitting ending.”
Colorado took a 21-20 lead into halftime after a sluggish first half by both teams. A Scott fadeaway over Poeltl capped an 8-1 to close the half, but the Buffaloes only shot 21.9 percent from the field. The Utes shot just 27.6 percent from the field in the first half to set a season low in any half.
Colorado had a 5:38 scoreless stretch in the first half in which it shot just 1 for 15, but Utah couldn’t capitalize with any offensive itself. The Utes were 2 for 15 outside of Poeltl and Bonam.
”Down the stretch, we stopped doing our offense,” guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher said. ”We stopped being aggressive. We just weren’t playing our game that we were playing the whole game. We stopped guarding like we were guarding the whole game. We just let them hit shots.”
Utah (24-7, 13-5) gets a first-round tournament bye and plays the winner of No. 10-seeded UCLA and the No. 7 seed USC.
Colorado (21-10, 10-8) plays No. 12 seed Washington State on Wednesday.
”We had an opportunity to set a school record tonight – to win 22 regular season games,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. ”Never been done at Colorado. We had it done and we didn’t finish it.
”So I want our guys to be angry, disappointed … and ready to go take it out on whoever we play on Wednesday in Las Vegas.”
Colorado: Scott was the reigning Pac-12 player of the week. … The 21 first-half points were the second fewest the Buffaloes have scored in any half this season. … The Buffs had just four assists in the game.
Utah: Poeltl was named a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award on Saturday. … The 20 first-half points tied a season low for points scored in a half. … The Utes hit just 4 of 21 3-point attempts. … Taylor had 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Taylor, Loveridge, Dakarai Tucker and Austin Eastman played their last game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. All were presented framed jerseys during a ceremony before the game. The 2012 class was the first full recruiting class under Krystkowiak. This group has been part of three consecutive 20-win seasons. Utah hadn’t previously reached 20 wins since the 2008-09 season.
”We had a bunch of body language that was saying, `We’re defeated,”’ Krystkowiak said. ”Before our guys got a chance to sit down, I let them know that I’m OK with losing. I’m not fearing losing and you shouldn’t be fearing losing. But we’re going to go down swinging.”
Both teams play in the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas, which begins Wednesday.
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