SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes have set a goal of earning a top-4 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament and a first round bye.
In their regular season finale, the Utes accomplished that goal.
Justin Bibbins scored 24 points, including six 3-pointers, to help Utah survive a sluggish second half and beat Colorado 64-54 on Saturday to clinch the third seed in next week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas.
With leading scorer David Collette injuring his ankle in the early minutes, Sedrick Barefield helped pick up the scoring slack, chipping in 14 points in his return after a two-game absence with a rib injury, and Donnie Tillman scored 10 for the Utes.
McKinley Wright IV cored 16 points and Lucas Stewart 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.
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 5 1/2 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 11:05 of the first half.
The Utes scored on four straight possessions — starting and finishing with layups from Donnie 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. The Utes did not score for nearly 7 1/2 minutes until Bibbins finally broke the ice with a layup.
Utah will open the Pac-12 Tournament Thursday at 9:30 p.m. mountain time at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas against the winner of the Oregon-Washington State game.