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Colorado stuns No. 4 Arizona State in overtime thriller

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The Buffs pulled off the biggest upset in the Tad Boyle era

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes needed an incredible performance to upset the No. 4 Arizona State Sun Devils, and that’s exactly what they got in an exhilarating 90-81 overtime win.

In what has become routine for Colorado, the Buffs were badly outplayed in the opening minutes. ASU jumped to an 11-0 lead as there was nothing the Buffs could against the Sun Devils’ feisty defense. Colorado finally got on the board with a Lazar Nikolic free throw, and the scoring only continued from there.

Where they had previously struggled for even a sight of the rim, the Buffs worked hard to create open shots that they began to convert more often than not. Colorado only shot 9-27 from the field and 3-12 from three in the first half, but after that start, it felt like the Showtime Lakers had manifested in the bodies of George King and company.

Coupled with a rambunctious home crowd and an frenetic defense, Colorado clawed back and drew within 1 point with 2:30 left in the half. After an ASU mini-run, the Sun Devils’ lead was 34-29, but the Buffs were still in a great spot.

In the second half, neither the Buffs nor the Coors Events Center let up. Colorado had upset on their minds and continued to work for every shot, hustle for every loose ball, and fight like they had never fought before.

The Buffs and Devils traded baskets and missed shots for the opening five minutes, then ASU went on a run that looked capable of busting open at any moment. Down by 49-42 with 13:30 to play, Colorado answered with a 13-2 run that saw them take their first lead of the game at the 10-minute mark. That go-ahead basket was a superb Namon Wright dunk on the fast break that sent the home crowd into a deafening frenzy.

No surprise, the leader of the fight was the immortal McKinley Wright. He was everywhere on both sides of the ball creating shots, stealing rebounds and shutting down ASU star Tra Holder. He had plenty of support from his teammates, most notably Dallas Walton blocking shots, Namon Wright running the break, Dom Collier hitting threes, and King doing everything in between.

As the clock waned and the two opposing sides continued to trade body blows and baskets, it was the young Buffaloes that appeared to pull away late. With a minute left in regulation, Namon Wright’s free throws put the Buffs up 73-69. It was too soon to celebrate, however, as Holder answered with a tough layup then Mickey Mitchell had a clutch game-tying put back layup with 3.7 seconds left. The Buffs would have to survive overtime.

Playing 40 minutes of fast-paced basketball is impossible at this elevation, and in this game, five minutes of extra time separated the men from the boys, only here it was the teenagers in white proving they can beat anyone in the country. More specifically, you can credit Namon Wright for taking over in overtime and the defense stifling every Arizona State counterattack.

From here on out, we know what these Buffaloes are capable of, and consistency and experience are all they need before they’re pulling off these victories regularly. Just imagine what this team can do three years from now when all the freshmen are grown.

Next up for the Buffs are the #14 Arizona Wildcats (12-3 overall, 2-0 in Pac-12). The ‘Cats are one of the most talented teams in the country, and after a rough start to the season, they’re hitting their stride as they just knocked off Arizona State and Utah. The Buffs will need another incredible performance to pull off another upset and they need the CEC to be as rocking as it was tonight. That game will tip off at noon on Saturday and can be watched on Pac-12 Networks.