Despite having every chance to win, the Colorado Buffaloes fell short in the Pac-12 Championship, losing 70-68 to the Oregon State Beavers.
As badly as Colorado wanted this win, the Beavers started the game with more focus and determination. Needing a win to keep their season alive, Oregon State outworked the Buffs on the defensive end and that coincided with them shooting the absolute lights out. They made six of their first nine threes to build an early 29-20 — it certainly didn’t help that the Buffs were slow to react to dribble handoffs and weren’t contested those jumpers.
Colorado stayed in it despite issues with turnovers and empty possessions. Evan Battey was crucial in the first half, as he scored 11 of CU’s first 22 points and set the tone inside and on the boards. Powered by six offensive rebounds, the Buffs scored 22 of their 28 points in the paint. They should have had more total points if they didn’t shoot 2-for-6 on free throws and 0-for-4 on three-pointers. It was probably fortunate they were down just 33-28 at half considering their shooting struggles.
The Buffs finally hit a three at the beginning of the first half. That shot by D’Shawn Schwartz, as well as McKinley Wright making some tough buckets, helped the Buffs to their first lead since they were up 3-0 in the first minute. At this juncture of the game, with Ethan Thompson sitting with three fouls, the Buffs had every chance to take all the momentum and possibly take control. That was not be be, however, as the Buffs struggled with turnovers and generally sloppy play.
It’s not often Wright commits three turnovers in four possessions. The Beavers turned those extra possessions into made shots despite CU ramping up the defensive pressure. On the few occasions OSU missed those shots, they were active on the offensive glass to create second chance points. No play was more exemplary of this issue than when Warith Alatishe missed a free throw, hustled to his own rebound, then found Jarrod Lucas for a triple.
Colorado started trading buckets, but every time they got close to taking the lead, they missed their free throws or made a costly mistake. Their issues rebounding and finishing can probably be attributed to a lack of effort and focus — maybe a result of fatigue, or maybe Oregon State just outworked them because their season was on the line. Whatever the case, the Buffs had all the chances to win this game, but fell short.
The Beavers, for what it’s worth, deserved the Pac-12 title as much as any team in the Pac-12. We should be happy that this particular Oregon State squad — one that is quite similar to the 2012 Buffs — won the league instead of, say, USC or Oregon.
With any luck, this loss will piss off everyone on the Buffs, including and especially Wright. They need to enter the NCAA Tournament with the mentality that have to prove themselves on the biggest stage.