Utah beats Colorado, clinches No. 3 seed in Pac-12 tourney
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Opponents are aware by now how much damage Justin Bibbins can do on the perimeter. Stopping the senior guard is not a simple task.
Bibbins delivered in crunch time for Utah, once again, by burying multiple critical long-distance baskets. It helped the Utes survive a sluggish second half in their 64-54 victory over Colorado on Saturday.
He scored 24 points, including six 3-pointers, to help Utah (19-10, 11-7 Pac-12) clinch the no. 3 seed in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament. Bibbins’ final 3 came with 55 seconds left after the Buffaloes had rallied from a double-digit deficit to make it a two possession game.
“I just tried to make the right play,” Bibbins said. “I knew what was at stake for this game.”
Sedrick Barefield chipped in 14 points in his return after a two-game absence and Donnie Tillman scored 10 for the Utes. Utah made just 5 of 21 (.238) from the field after halftime after shooting 54.2 percent in the first half.
McKinley Wright IV scored 16 points and Lucas Siewert added 11 to lead Colorado. The Buffaloes (16-14, 8-10 Pac-12) lost for fourth time in five games.
Colorado trailed by as many as 18 points before halftime, but cut Utah’s lead to 57-52 on Wright’s layup with 1:23 left. The Buffaloes got no closer. Bibbins hit his final 3-pointer on the next possession and then Barefield made four free throws in the final minute to seal it.
“Our second-half effort and our second-half energy and our second-half toughness was what Colorado basketball is about,” Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said. “The first half was unacceptable, pitiful, atrocious, name the adjective you want. It wasn’t good enough.”
Utah’s defense stifled Colorado for large stretches of the first half. The Buffaloes shot just 10 of 31 (32.3 percent) from the field before halftime.
Colorado initially endured a 5½ minute stretch where it went scoreless and committed six turnovers as Utah built a 25-16 lead behind an 11-1 run. Bibbins and Barefield ignited the spurt with a go-ahead 3-pointer and a layup on back-to-back possessions.
Colorado cut the deficit in half on back-to-back baskets from Wright and George King. The Buffaloes missed 10 straight shots at one point and shot just 3 of 19 from the field over the final 11-plus minutes of the first half.
The Utes scored on four straight possessions — starting and finishing with layups from Tillman — to finish off a 14-0 run and take a 39-21 lead with 1:15 left before halftime.
Colorado climbed back into the game when Utah opened the second half by missing 10 of its first 11 shots. Back-to-back baskets from both Siewert and D’Shawn Schwartz highlighted a 12-0 run that trimmed Utah’s lead to 46-42. The Utes did not score for nearly 7½ minutes until Bibbins finally broke the ice with a layup.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “We quit guarding and they got back in the game. Fortunately, we had guys — Sedrick and Justin — step up and made some big plays. We finally got them to miss and got some rebounds.”
Colorado ultimately had a 41-30 advantage on rebounds and a 15-5 edge on the offensive glass. The Buffaloes outscored Utah 14-7 on second chance points.
Colorado: Inconsistent offense doomed the Buffaloes. Colorado coughed up 13 turnovers and shot just 36.7 percent from the field — including 3 of 18 from 3-point range. It allowed Utah to survive its own rough second-half outing on offense.
Utah: The Utes persevered on both ends of the floor despite losing senior forward David Collette to a first-half injury. Collette had to be helped to the Utah locker room with 13:12 left before halftime after spraining his ankle under the basket.
FREE THROW KING
Sedrick Barefield missed a pair of games because of injury and showed some rust in his first game back for Utah. But the junior guard also came through at the free throw line down the stretch.
Barefield went 10-of-10 from the line for the Utes, becoming just the 14th Utah player to make all of his free throws, with at least 10 attempts, in a game. Six of those came in the second half when shooting struggles made points tough to produce.
“We needed those points and, hopefully, this gets a little bit of rust off before we head into season three in Vegas,” Krystkowiak said. “It was nice to get him back. We needed a little more firepower.”
Colorado: The Buffaloes clinched the No. 8 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament and will face ninth-seeded Arizona State in the first round on Wednesday.
Utah: The Utes will get a first round bye after clinching the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.