Team Colorado entered today’s TBT quarterfinal fatigued, sore, and quite frankly, somewhat lucky to be alive. The CU alumni already had an injury-shortened bench concurrent with a thin bench, and that was before a physically brutal victory over Team 23 yesterday. All things considered, a let down today would have been understandable, if not expected.
Team Colorado scored the first basket of the game, but allowed 10-0 run to give the Utes the early advantage. The Buffs weren’t out of it for long and made a mini-comeback to tie the game at 26. After that, the Buffs weren’t in it for long as poor shooting and suspect defense allowed the Utes a 13-2 run. Colorado then exchanged baskets with Utah and went into halftime down nine.
After the break, tough team defense, and made three-pointers from Marcus Relphorde and Dominique Coleman saw the Buffs tie the game only a few minutes into the second half. After the two teams alternated scoring runs for 20 minutes, the following 16 were neck-and-neck and tense as could be ... and then Marcus Hall happened.
With about six minutes to play and tied at 57, Marcus Hall made the decision to take over the game. The first of many hero ball makes, Hall drove to his right, stopped on a dime, effortlessly spun to left and released a majestic floated that found nothing but net. Seemingly every Colorado basket from here on out was setup by Hall, and whether it was Hall setting up Dufault with a behind-the-back pass or Hall scooting by everyone for a lefty scoop depended on which skill the ‘08 graduate wanted to demonstrate. Even on defense, Hall was pressuring Utes into foolish turnovers and grabbing contested rebounds.
Starting at the one minute mark, Hall hit the game-tying shot, the go-ahead shot, and made a free throw to give Colorado a four-point lead with 12 seconds left. It wasn’t all Hall, of course, but it sure felt like it.
Not to be discounted, Dominique Coleman initiated the scoring run that got the Buffs back into the game and he sealed the victory with his final free throw. Dufault and Sharpe were terrific defensively and had their share of offensive production. On top of this, Dwight Thorne announced himself to the coaching world. At a crucial moment of the back-and-back second half, Thorne called a momentum-saving timeout and drew up a perfect play on the baseline for a wide-open Dufault layup.
No snark, Dwight Thorne just drew up a better inbounds play than Tad Boyle ever has.— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) July 23, 2016
Thanks to Marcus Hall and the supporting cast, Team Colorado will advance to the TBT Final Four and will play the winner of the Midwest Region, Golden Eagles Alumni (Marquette) or Always A Brave (Bradley Alumni). That semifinal will be played in New York City on July 30 at 5 p.m. (MST) and will be broadcasted live on ESPN. Should they win that game, they would play on August 2 for the $2,000,000 grand prize.
This will be the first time since the 2011 NIT that Buffs basketball will be represented both in New York and in any Final Four. If Team Colorado continues to play fearless and determined, they’ll be difficult or even impossible to deny the championship.