Senior Day in Boulder couldn’t have been any better. The Colorado Buffaloes (16-13, 8-9 in Pac-12) were led by seniors George King and Dom Collier in a thrilling home win over the UCLA Bruins (19-9, 10-6).
The Buffs came out with energy we haven’t seen since they upset Arizona nearly two months ago. Emotion will do that for a team with as much camaraderie and senior leadership as this CU team.
Just as Wakanda is powered by vibranium, Colorado’s brilliant half was powered by threes. It felt like the Buffs had been possessed by a radioactive Klay Thompson and all they could do was shoot threes like they would die without it. The Buffs shot 20 three-pointers and just 10 two-pointers; it’s not like that was a bad decision either, since they shot a preposterous 50% on those attempts.
The role players seemed particularly effected by this radioactive virus. The Buffs’ leading scorers in the half were Dominique Collier (14 points), Lucas Siewert (10) and Namon Wright (9). They shot 9-12 from three and none of them even attempted a two-pointer. It’s hard to pick a favorite out of those — Collier’s are great because it’s Senior Day, Siewert’s because of his sudden (re)emergence — but the best has to be Namon’s buzzer-beater at the end of the half with the Buffs up 45-36.
This shot chart should be framed and hung in Tad's office pic.twitter.com/eFTbyiaslh— RalphieReport (@RalphieReport) February 25, 2018
That hot shooting was never going to last, but the Buffs just needed to play well enough to hold off the inevitable UCLA run. That run came just when everyone was expecting: immediately out of halftime just like every other run CU has allowed in Pac-12 play.
The Buffs suddenly forgot how to shoot and UCLA quickly chipped away at the end before soon tying the game at 52-52 with 13 minutes left. (Somewhere in there, Dallas Walton traumatized Aaron Holiday.) Luckily, though, the Bruins also forgot to score at that point and were unable to build anything of a lead.
Once the Buffs got back on track, their offense resembled that of the first half. After shooting sub-30% for most of the half, they couldn’t miss. First Lazar Nikolic hit a three, then Collier another, then George King destroyed Kris Wilkes on a block. Soon enough, the Buffs were on a 17-1 run to take command of the game with only four minutes to play.
UCLA made a late comeback as they hit a bunch of ridiculous threes, but King and company converted enough clutch shots and made enough defensive plays to hold off the Bruins. To have a fitting end to the game, the buzzer sounded with the ball in the hands of senior walk-on Josh Repine. The Buffs won 80-76 to finish off one of the most enjoyable games in memory, and it was because of those seniors showing up when they were needed most.
Next up for the Buffs is an away game at Utah (Sat., 5:00, Pac-12 Networks). The Buffs will look to carry over their momentum and finish off another sweep. A win in Salt Lake City would likely clinch an NIT berth. It would also see them finish 8th or 9th in the Pac-12, perfect position to play Arizona if they get to the second round.