Boulder, CO (SportsNetwork.com) - The 13th-ranked Utah Utes will end a three- game road trip Saturday as they clash with the Colorado Buffaloes at Coors Events Center for a Pac-12 Conference bout.
Utah has won three of its last four games, including a crushing 67-39 victory over USC in Los Angeles on Sunday. The win boosted the team's Pac-12 record to 7-2 on the season, though the Utes are only 3-4 away from home.
After a two-game win streak, Colorado fell back into the loss column with a 72-59 defeat at the hands of UCLA. The Buffaloes were set back to 4-5 against Pac-12 competition, but they'll try and boost their 9-2 home record in this contest.
Utah's strong defense was at work the last time these two sides met on the court exactly a month ago. The Utes took down the Buffaloes, 74-49, in Salt Lake City. But it's Colorado that holds the all-time series advantage over Utah, 25-18, including a 14-6 mark in Boulder.
Tough defense was on display against USC on Sunday, as the Utes held the Trojans to 26.5 percent shooting from the floor in the contest, which included a meager 1-of-12 mark from 3-point distance. Utah meanwhile, connected on 46.3 percent of its tries in the contest, and was able to lead USC from start to finish in the lopsided victory. Jakob Poeltl scored a team-best 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, adding in nine rebounds. Delon Wright chipped in with 11 points and five boards, while Jordan Loveridge contributed 10 points. Utah held a 38-18 advantage over USC in points in the paint in the win.
Wright continues to build on his stellar season as he leads the Utes in a march toward the NCAA Tournament. The senior guard leads the team with 14.4 ppg on 54.1 percent shooting, adding in a team-high 118 assists (5.6 apg - third in the Pac-12). Brandon Taylor contributes 10.8 ppg for the Utes, and Loveridge chips in 10.5 ppg to round out a trio of double-digit scorers this season. Utah as a unit averages 74.0 ppg, fourth in the Pac-12, and is allowing a league-low 56.3 ppg to opponents on a mere 37.8 percent shooting from the floor. Poeltl's 7.7 rpg and 38 blocked shots are the best on the team in each category.
Colorado hung tough with UCLA for the first half, but the Bruins pulled way ahead of the Buffaloes in the second frame after hitting 56 percent of their field-goal tries, and adding in a 17-of-20 mark from the free-throw line. Colorado shot 36.4 percent from the floor in the contest, and was led in scoring by Askia Booker's 16-point, five-assist effort. Wesley Gordon was the only other Buffalo to net a double-figure scoring total in the matchup, adding in 10 points with a team-best eight rebounds.
Colorado's scoring defense this season ranks fourth in the Pac-12, but the team is still giving up 64.1 ppg to opponents, who are shooting 40.4 percent from the floor and 32.5 percent from 3-point distance. The team has been able to stay afloat with an offensive effort that is managing 68.6 ppg, led by Booker's 17.6 ppg (ranked fifth individually in the conference). The Buffaloes are seriously missing Josh Scott (13.8 ppg), who has been out since early January with a strained back. Xavier Johnson has missed a chunk of time this season as well, but he's currently the only other active Buffalo with a double-digit scoring average at 11.9 ppg. Against UCLA however, Johnson went 0-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes played. Gordon paces the team in rebounding this season at 7.9 boards per outing.