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Colorado survives Arizona State, moves on to Arizona

Tyler Bey starred as the Buffs’ defense won the game.

NCAA Basketball: Colorado at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes (14-3, 3-1) traveled to the desert hoping for the road sweep. They nailed the first leg against Arizona State (10-7, 1-3), even if their hot play didn’t make the flight.

This was not Colorado’s night. From the very jump, it was obvious this game would be a clunker. CU wasn’t hitting anything early, the Sun Devils made a few contested looks, and the refs decided to be sketchy. It wasn’t a great start, then Evan Battey got into early foul trouble.

The Buffs are one of the biggest teams in the country, but Battey and Tyler Bey struggled badly on the interior, at least offensively. That would be because of Romello White, the massive 6’8, 240-lbs. forward who was a brick wall on defense and a cement mixer on offense (is that a thing?). White, who was suspended during CU’s season-opening win over ASU in Shanghai, neutralized the interior, grabbed every rebound and drew those fouls on Battey.

The bright side was that when Battey went out, Lucas Siewert stepped up. The Buffs couldn’t hit any shots, so it was a game-changed for Siewert to come in and score 11 points on just five shots. Considering how poorly the Buffs starters played in that first half, they were quite fortunate to go into halftime tied, 28-28. Credit Siewert as much as you, because he seriously did save CU.

Coming out of halftime, the Buffs ramped up the defensive effort and shut down any and all offense from ASU. With McKinley Wright locking up Remy Martin, the Sun Devils struggled to create any open looks. During the first ten minutes of the second half, they shot a horrifying 2-20 from the field. Their only buckets were from White getting offensive rebounds until the Buffs crashed hard.

Colorado never found their rhythm offensively, but they still built a 12-point lead just on the strength of their defense. Bey was the only one who was individually effective as he kept burrowing his way to rim to get layups or free throws. He scored 16 in the half and finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

Arizona State fought back and Rob Edwards’ three cut a 12-point lead to just 5, then Siewert answered back to keep the Buffs in control. From there, the Buffs’ elite defense and mediocre free throws (14-20 in the half) were enough to ice the game. On a night where very little was working for CU, they fought hard and comfortably won a tough road game. Offense doesn’t always travel, but TadBall does.

Next up for the Buffs is Saturday brunch with the Arizona Wildcats (12:30 pm, FS1). This will be the first time they have played with CU ranked and Arizona unranked, which will be quite odd for everyone on both sides. Colorado matches up quite well with Arizona — perhaps better than they do with ASU, interestingly — so this would be the year to (actually) win in Tucson.