SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – In what has been a frustrating season for the young Utah basketball season, the Utes gave their fans something to cheer about in their home finale.
Both Gach scored a career-high 28 points, including three free throws with 0.6 seconds left, to lift Utah to a 74-72 overtime victory over Colorado on Saturday.
Alfonso Plummer added 21 points and Timmy Allen chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds for the Utes. Utah (16-14, 7-11 Pac-12) snapped a three-game losing streak and won for the second time in the team’s past eight contests.
McKinley Wright IV scored 20 points and totaled six rebounds and six assists to lead the Buffaloes. Tyler Bey scored 16 points and collected 10 rebounds. Evan Battey added 15 points. It wasn’t enough to prevent Colorado (21-10, 10-8) from suffering a fourth straight loss.
Utah opened the second half with a pair of 7-0 runs. Plummer twice cut the deficit to a point with 3-pointers. The Utes finally took their first lead at 47-46 on Allen’s layup that capped the second run.
Colorado countered with its own 7-0 run to go back in front. Battey and Maddox Daniels combined for back-to-back baskets to punctuate the spurt and put the Buffaloes up 53-47.
Utah had one more rally left. The Utes surged ahead 60-59 on Plummer’s fifth 3-pointer of the game. Bey immediately answered the basket with a go-ahead jumper on the ensuing Colorado possession. He then converted a 3-point play with 19.6 seconds left in regulation to put the Buffaloes up 64-62.
Gach hit a jumper with 2.5 seconds to go to force overtime.
Wright capped an 8-2 run for Colorado by driving for a go-ahead layup that put the Buffaloes up 72-70 with 31 seconds left in overtime. Then Gach converted three free throws after being fouled by Wright on a last-second shot to secure the win for Utah.
“It was big time,” head coach Larry Krystkowiak said about Gach. “It was very big time. Not everybody is built for those moments. Last couple of games he’s stepped up when the moments are the biggest. Both puts a lot of time in behind the scenes. A few weeks ago I came in during an early morning, heard the ball bouncing, and it was Both down there working on his game. A lot of the success that he has is because he’s earned it.”
“You can say that I feel like I’m being myself,” Gach said. “Just being able to make plays for myself and for my teammates.”
Utes starting point guard Rylan Jones did not play, recovering from a concussion he suffered during a loss at California a week earlier.
His absence led to Utah struggling to create any offensive rhythm for much of the first half. The Buffaloes wasted no time imposing their will on both ends of the court.
Colorado twice built 10-point cushions early in the first half. Battey converted a 3-point play to cap an 11-4 run and gave the Buffaloes an 18-8 lead. Then, with the Utes threatening to start a run of their own, Daniels drilled a 3-pointer to make it 23-13 midway through the first half.
Gach kept Utah within striking distance. He attacked the rim and knocked down some shots from the perimeter to total 16 first-half points. The Utes twice pulled within three points before halftime on layups from Gach. The second basket trimmed Colorado’s lead to 36-33.
Utah could not overtake the Buffaloes before halftime. Wright turned a steal into a layup and then Daniels followed with a corner three to give Colorado a 41-33 lead going into the locker room.
Plummer made 7 of 14 shots from the field, including 5 of 11 from three-point range.
The Utes next open the Pac-12 Tournament Wednesday in Las Vegas.