The Colorado Buffaloes are not coming home, not yet at least. In the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, the Buffs squared off against the Arizona State Sun Devils and played like they were gambling with house money.
The Buffs started the game with a fire in their belly as they immediately let it be known that they were here to make noise. Arizona State was supposedly a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but even as they made seemingly every shot early on, CU had an answer for them every time. Once of those counters was courtesy of Lucas Siewert, who midway through the first half went on a 7-0 scoring by his self to power CU to a 19-16 lead. Later on, Dom Collier had a similar 6-0 run to take momentum into the half.
The Buffs continued to keep up with ASU mainly by chucking threes and moving the ball with excellent passing. CU scored 21 of their 41 first half points on 7-11 three-point shooting. When they weren’t scoring from deep, CU scored the other 20 at the rim or at the free throw line. Many of those buckets came on absurd passes, none more so than this beauty by the one and only McKinley Wright.
The Buffs struggled to defend as ASU shot exceptionally well, but they still had a 41-37 because of how effective their offense was. Colorado is 14-0 after leading at halftime, by the way.
At the beginning of the half, it looked like Arizona State was readying to go on a run to take control of the game. Where CU had previously dominated in the paint and on the rebounds, the Sun Devils brought in De’Quon Lake to fortify the paint and shore up the boards. Around him, ASU continued to hit difficult shots, especially the deadly duo of Tra Holder and Remy Martin.
But, as always, Colorado refused to give up. After ASU took a 6-point lead midway through the half — their largest lead of the game — Colorado went on a 15-1 run to pull ahead with a 71-61 lead with 7:40 left. Starting with this run, CU’s superb second half was powered by Kin (20 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds), D’Shawn Schwartz (10 second half points), and ridiculous 6-10 three-point shooting. It also helped that in the half, CU shot 18-20 from the free throw compared to ASU’s shooting 9-14, including several misses on the front end of one-and-ones.
Each time ASU took one step closer, CU took two steps forward. The pace picked up to such a high rate that Colorado started to run through the finish and were unable to slow down after victory became imminent. The final few minutes were a wonderful mix of pride in the win, excitement for tomorrow, and pettiness towards ASU. The young Buffs couldn’t really help themselves. After Tyler Bey had one too many alley-oop dunks with 7 seconds left, things got chippy as Tra Holder nearly started a fight by shoving Bey. Tad Boyle ended up tearing his calf breaking up the skirmish. Technical free throws got us to the final score of 97-85.
This was possibly CU’s best victory of the season. They kept up with a good team shooting at an absurd clip, and even more impressively, they won this away from home in the Pac-12 Tournament. It was also encouraging to see their undying fight and their “f*** you” attitude.
Next up for the Buffs is a game against the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats tomorrow at 1 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks). CU has already beat Arizona this season and they have a good blueprint to win. If they play with as much energy and focus as today, the Buffs’ upset chances are very real.