- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - After shutting down Jordan Loveridge so effectively earlier this season, the last thing Colorado expected was to see the Utah sophomore burn their defense with one clutch basket after another.

The Buffaloes found out the hard way that Loveridge wasn’t about to do a second disappearing act in his team’s Pac-12 home finale.

Loveridge scored 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting to give Utah’s offense a major second-half boost and help the Utes pull away for a 75-64 victory over Colorado. It marked his best offensive production against a Pac-12 opponent since posting 22 points against Arizona State a month ago.

It also marked a stark contrast to what happened in Boulder when Loveridge finished with a season-low four points.

“He had that look in his eye,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “When he was releasing shots, I had a sense that they were going to go in. They were the right kind of shot at the right time and in the right position.”

Delon Wright also finished with 21 points to pace the Utes. Utah (19-9, 8-8 Pac-12) shot 70.8 percent (17-of-24) from the field in the second half to pull away from the Buffaloes.

Josh Scott had 17 points and Xavier Johnson added 10 for Colorado (20-9, 9-7), which lost to Utah for just the second time in the last nine games between the two rivals. The Buffaloes shot just 39.6 percent (21-of-53) from the field and were undone by 11 second-half turnovers.

“The second half, we are a different team,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “For some reason, the last few games, three out of the last four games, in the second half we come out and we just can’t stop anybody.”

After trailing by as many eight late in the first half, Utah shut down Colorado’s offense before halftime. The Utes held the Buffaloes without a field goal over a stretch of 8:14 spanning both halves.

It allowed Utah to finally claim its first lead early in the second half. The Utes scored 17 unanswered points - culminating in a 3-point play by Wright off his own steal - to take a 39-30 lead less than four minutes into the second half.

That was just one of many big second-half plays by Wright that helped Utah gain an edge over Colorado in a hurry. All but two of his points came after halftime.

“I wasn’t aggressive enough in the first half,” Wright said. “I was just trying to let the game come to me, but it wasn’t working. So in the second half, I just tried to be more aggressive.”

Scott broke the ice for Colorado with a jumper, but Utah tacked on a couple of more baskets - punctuated by Loveridge drilling a 3-pointer - to increase its lead to 45-32 with 13:52 remaining.

Colorado missed 10-of-11 shots and Utah forced the Buffaloes to commit eight turnovers during that decisive 23-2 run.

“You should be playing your best basketball at the end of the year,” Loveridge said. “I feel like with this game and our last game, we’re starting to play like we should.”

The Buffaloes cut Utah’s lead to nine points three different times and pulled within 59-50 on Xavier Johnson’s 3-point play with 6:48 left. But the Utes pressed on the gas pedal and pulled away from Colorado. Utah scored baskets on three straight possessions and took a 68-51 lead with 3:49 remaining when Wright fed Princeton Onwas for an alley-oop dunk and then hit three free throws a minute later.

Krystkowiak had nothing but good things to say about how Utah bounced back in the second half offensively after a sluggish start in the first half.

“How can you not be excited about that,” Krystkowiak asked “The only thing that really kept it from being perfect was our turnovers. I thought when we started playing with the lead, we got sloppy. We had three straight turnovers. We just have to be more disciplined when we get put in that position.”

Dustin Thomas scored three quick baskets to help Colorado sprint out to an early 7-2 lead. Utah had a difficult time cutting into the lead because the Buffaloes seemingly had an answer every time the Utes threatened to make a run.

Back-to-back dunks from Dallin Bachynski helped the Utes pull within three at 11-8. Xavier Johnson responded with his own pair of back-to-back baskets to push Colorado’s lead back to six at 16-10.

Utah tied it for the first time at 18-18 on four straight free throws from Onwas and Jeremy Olsen. That set the stage for back-to-back baskets from Eli Saltzer that fueled a 7-0 spurt to put the Buffaloes back in front. Colorado extended its lead to 30-22 on a 3-pointer from Jaron Hopkins with 4:35 left before halftime.

The Utes got back into the game by finally shutting down Colorado’s offense as the first half wound down. Colorado was held without a field goal over the final 4:35 of the half.

Utah took advantage by finally getting things going on the offensive end. The Utes tied it up at 30-30 on a 3-pointer from Loveridge with 1:42 remaining before halftime, positioning themselves to explode out of the gate in the second half.

“We were making enough shots to keep the game close but we weren’t guarding and rebounding like we are capable of,” Boyle said. “Jordan Loveridge was the difference I thought in the game. He was really good and we didn’t have any answer for him.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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