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Runnin’ Utes Hope For More Consistency Offensively In Afternoon Clash Vs. Colorado

Colorado Buffaloes guard McKinley Wright IV (25) shoots a 3 pointer for the win (he missed it) during a college basketball game between the Utah Utes and the Colorado Buffalos on March 7, 2020 at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Runnin’ Utes are hoping to be more consistent throughout their next game against Colorado on Monday afternoon.

The Runnin’ Utes are coming off of a tough loss to Oregon. Colorado hasn’t played since Thursday when they beat the Ducks in Boulder.

Utah’s offense was much better against Oregon, shooting 55 percent from the field. In their previous game versus USC, they made just four of their 30 field goal attempts in the second half. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak made two changes to his starting lineup leading up the Oregon game. He was pleased with the the way they played except for a five minute stretch in the second half.

“I was pleased with the change in the first half, we also lost that 10 point lead in the matter of five minutes in the second half,” Krystkowiak told the media on Sunday afternoon. “So it depends on which five minutes if I like the change, because virtually the same lineup in the second half as well. But we didn’t respond coming out of halftime. But at this point, I’m pleased with the guys. That’s where we’re going to be moving forward for the time being.”

Runnin’ Utes Hosting Colorado

The Buffaloes come to Salt Lake City with an 8-3 overall record and 2-2 mark in Pac-12 play. They have wins over South Dakota, Kansas State, Northern Colorado, Omaha, Washington, Grand Canyon, USC and Oregon. Colorado suffered losses to Tennessee, Arizona and UCLA.

McKinley Wright is their leading scoring, averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Jeriah Horne is the only other CU player averaging double figures with 11.3 points and 5.3 boards per contest. Evan Battey and Dallas Walton are near double figures, posting 9.9 and 9.6 points per game averages respectively.

“Well, they’ve got a lot of guys returning,” Krystkowiak sad. “I think they’ve got an elite one of the best point guards in our conference in McKinley Wright. (Evan) Battey poses a great threat, he plays hard and with a lot of energy inside. There’s a lot of good players around them. (Jeriah) Horne is a new face for them. That’s a four man that gives them perimeter shooting. Tad (Boyle) doesn’t change much of what he’s done. I had him in the top three or so of the preseason poll. They play really hard, they play great defense, they push the tempo as much as anybody. They really are an opportunistic team. So we’ve got to be ready to go. That’s a team that’s had a few more days rest than us and I know they’ll come in here and play really, really hard and then look to force the pace.”

Utah and Colorado split their two regular season meetings last year. The Buffs beat the Utes pretty good in Boulder, picking up a 91-52 win on January 12. The Utes returned the favor with a 74-72 overtime win at the Huntsman Center in the regular season finale. Both Gach made three free throws in the final seconds to give them the win.

Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah is 11-8 against Colorado, including an 8-1 record at home.

Utah Sticking With New Lineup

On Saturday night, Krystkowiak elected to go with a different starting lineup. For nearly every game this season with the exception of one, Utah has started Rylan Jones, Alfonso Plummer, Timmy Allen, Mikael Jantunen and Branden Carlson. Against Oregon, Krystkowiak moved Plummer and Carlson to the bench and started Pelle Larsson and Riley Battin.

“We looked at a lot of data, combinations, rosters and that lineup that we started last night (Saturday) is our best defensive lineup,” Krystkowiak stated. “We allow less points per possession. We’re really efficient. I think you saw that last night our defense was really good. Oregon’s got a lot of talented guys. At the end of the day, we made them make some tough shots. They had guys that made threes that hadn’t made threes. I think we did a really good job on their starting big man. We had a really good focus in getting some stops. I like Fonz (Alfonso Plummer) coming off the bench and given us a little bit of spark for scoring and makes our roster a little bit bigger in the backcourt.”

Tip-off between the Utes and Buffaloes will be at 4 p.m. MST on Monday, January 11. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.