In a matchup between the two best defenses in the Pac-12, the Colorado Buffaloes and Stanford Cardinal were expected to beat up on each other. The Buffs proved to be the tougher team as they fought for a 64-56 win.
From the opening tip, Stanford looked like they would create problems inside with their length and strength, but after initial success getting the ball to future NFL tight end Reid Travis, the Buffs adjusted and took that option away with a collapsing, swarming defense. But that defense didn’t do much to help CU early on because Stanford’s defense had its way with Colorado as well. Aside from McKinley Wright and George King, Colorado couldn’t get anything to fall, even on the wide open looks. After 13 minutes of play, both teams were shooting under 25% from the field. It wasn’t a pretty start to say the least.
After going scoreless for 6 minutes, Colorado suddenly heated up late in the half. Powered by hustle plays and wide-open three-pointers, the Buffaloes went on a commanding 16-3 run to take control of the game. Credit to everyone involved in this run, but the real star was Lucas Siewert. The oft-maligned big man drilled a pair of threes and had a heady put-back layup. Those shots by the Brazilian made it possible for CU to take a significant 31-20 lead into halftime.
Like we have seen every game Colorado takes a halftime lead, it was only a matter time before Stanford creeped back in. Just as Stanford began to hit their shots, the Buffs tried to give it away with giveaways. CU had six turnovers in the first seven minutes of the half, which, compounded with poor shooting, allowed the Cardinal to turn a 14-point deficit into a one-point game with seven minutes left.
Stanford never took the lead, however, because Colorado fought back as they always do. Just as it looked like the Buffs would be overtaken, Tyler Bey refused. With defensive plays everywhere, clutch mid-range jumpers and jaw-dropping put-back dunks, Bey did everything he could to keep the Buffs on top. He held down the fort long enough for his teammates to help him fend off the Cardinal for good. After fighting down the stretch, Siewert hit a pair of clutch triples that proved to be the dagger. With 25 seconds left, George King had a breakaway dunk that was the cherry on top of the 64-56 win.
It’s always tough to see CU blow a 14-point lead in the second half, but this team has proved capable of fighting back and preventing total collapse, unlike most Buffs teams in recent years. It’s also encouraging that the supporting players were the heroes of the day. Bey was excellent and is showing his star potential. Siewert had 17 points and 7 rebounds as he proved he can be a vital contributor when he’s aggressive. McKinley Wright, a usual star, was also solid as he had 11 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds.
The Buffs are now 15-10 overall and 7-6 in the Pac-12. They’re likely out of the NCAA Tournament, but they could crash the bubble if they make noise on their upcoming road trip against Washington State (2/15) and Washington (2/17). If they can put everything together out there, this team can continue to exceed expectations.