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Five keys to Colorado defeating Utah at home

The Colorado men’s basketball team’s (17-9, 8-7 Pac-12) March Madness chances are hanging by a thread with five games left in the regular season. Needing to win out to improve their odds, the Buffs are taking it one game at a time with the Utah Utes (16-10, 8-7) coming to Boulder on Saturday night.

Similarly to their first matchup, both teams enter the contest with nearly identical records. Since Utah edged out Colorado to begin February, the Utes have gone 1-3 to the Buffs’ 2-2.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Network.

With both teams fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives, here are five keys to Colorado securing a much-needed home victory:

Let Cody Williams attack

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In their first faceoff on Feb. 3, the Buffs were short-handed with Cody Williams (face) sidelined. Without a top-three scorer and defender, CU only lost by five. As long as Williams can take care of the ball, it should be hard for the Utes to keep pace as they were able to hold the Buffs to sub-40% shooting from the field in Salt Lake City.

Live or die by Tristan da Silva

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

There are numerous reasons why Colorado hasn’t played to its expectations this season. One of the most glaring has been Tristan da Silva’s lack of improvement in his senior season. While posting similar numbers to last year, he has looked passive at times and has struggled in big games and clutch moments.

In Salt Lake City, the forward posted a measly 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting. Even if da Silva struggles once more, the Buffs will be hard-pressed to go away from him.

Slow down Deivon Smith

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

In their last six contests, the Buffs are 2-4. In about five of those games, the opposing backcourt has gotten theirs. With respect to Washington State’s Myles Rice and UCLA’s Sebastian Mack, Utah’s Deivon Smith produced arguably the best performance of any guard CU has faced this season (17 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists). Hindering Smith’s ability to run Utah’s offense will be huge for the Buffs.

Make Utah play half-court offense

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffs controlled nearly every statistical category against Uta the first time around, yet still lost by five points. While they didn’t exactly dominate a single category, the Utes did by outscoring the Buffs in transition, 21-7. In many of Colorado’s losses, that figure has looked similar. The Buffs need to cut down from their 15 turnovers at Utah while limiting quick outlet passes.

Utilize the bench

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle essentially had to play his starters the whole game against Utah last time out. While part of that was due to Williams being sidelined, Luke O’Brien’s (ankle) didn’t help. Utah ran out nine guys to Colorado’s seven with its bench playing a combined 63 minutes to CU’s 23.

With Williams back, Julian Hammond III sliding back to the bench and O’Brien ready to continue his stellar play from USC, Boyle will have a few more options at his disposal.

Story originally appeared on Buffaloes Wire