Utah-Colorado Preview

BY foxsports • February 6, 2015

Although its stingy defense played a key role in its longest winning streak of the season, Utah's inability to maintain that effort during a 2-2 stretch drew the ire of coach Larry Krystkowiak.

The 13th-ranked Utes responded with their best defensive performance on the road in six years and now they're looking to close out a three-game trip Saturday night with their first win at Colorado since 2003.

The Utes (17-4, 7-2) limited opponents to 51.9 points per game - 4.4 below a season mark that ranks in the country's top 10 - and a 36.8 field-goal percentage during a seven-game run from Dec. 20-Jan. 15.

However, they allowed an average of 64.5 points on 45.8 percent shooting over a recent four-game stretch that included a 69-51 loss at No. 6 Arizona on Jan. 17 and a 69-59 loss at UCLA on Jan. 29.

After his squad fell behind league-leading Arizona with its first loss to an unranked opponent, Krystkowiak said he wanted "everyone to look at themselves and find ways to improve."

The Utes appeared to do just that Sunday, limiting USC to 12 first-half points and cruising to a 67-39 road victory.

"Our guys really responded," Krystkowiak said. "The big lesson I think from (the UCLA loss) was we can't just show up.''

Utah held the Trojans to 26.5 percent shooting while allowing its fewest points on the road since a 57-36 win over Air Force on Jan. 14, 2009.

Jakob Poeltl had 14 points and nine boards to help Utah outrebound USC 39-26 and outscore the Trojans 38-18 in the paint on the way to its 11th win by at least 20 points - tied for the most in the nation with Notre Dame.

''We wanted to get back to what we used to play - a lot of energy, execute on defense, lockdown our opponent," Poeltl said.

The 7-foot freshman had eight boards when Utah had a 37-30 edge on the glass in a 74-49 home win over Colorado on Jan. 7.

Brandon Taylor and Delon Wright combined for 27 points and 11 assists in that contest. Wright has averaged 17.0 points, 7.0 assists and 4.3 steals in his last three meetings with Colorado.

The Buffaloes, who had 18 turnovers in the January loss, have committed 35 in their last two games. They also shot just 36.4 percent last Saturday in a 72-59 loss at UCLA that ended a two-game winning streak.

Askia Booker had 16 points after he scored a career-high 43 in a 98-94 triple-overtime win at USC on Jan. 29. The senior guard struggled in the first meeting with Utah, finishing with 12 while missing eight of 12 shots.

Colorado (11-10, 4-5) has averaged 80.9 points on 50.3 percent shooting in its wins compared to 55.0 per game with a 37.9 field-goal percentage in its defeats.

"The next three are at home, so we better make some hay while the sun shines," said coach Tad Boyle, whose club is 9-2 at home. "Utah is a hell of a team coming into our place. The time is now."

The Buffaloes have won the past four meetings in Boulder dating to December 2003, including a 79-75 overtime victory last Feb. 1 behind Booker's 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and Josh Scott's 20 points and 10 boards.

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