In Colorado's last two meetings with Colorado State, Spencer Dinwiddie found ways to will the Buffs to victory from the brink of defeat.
At no time during the young 2014-15 campaign has Colorado missed Dinwiddie more than in the waning minutes of Wednesday's 62-60 loss at the hands of the CSU Rams.
Down 62-59 with 15 seconds to play, Colorado State's J.J. Avila missed a pair of potentially game-icing free throws. Josh Scott grabbed the second miss and found Askia Booker with an outlet pass. Booker hit Wesley Gordon in the left corner. Gordon faked, and gave back to Booker, who drove the lane and missed a layup with time expiring. Xavier Johnson grabbed the miss and got fouled with two seconds left, all but sealing a victory for Colorado State, their first in Boulder since 2006.
"Obviously that was a very disappointing loss for the Colorado Buffaloes," said head coach Tad Boyle. "I take ownership as the head coach - we didn't finish that game out, and we didn't make enough plays down the stretch."
Colorado jumped out to a quick 12-5 lead, but foul trouble slowed down the Colorado attack when Booker picked up his second personal just under five minutes into the half. CSU made runs but never took the lead back from the Buffs the rest of the first half, as the Buffs clung to a 32-30 lead at halftime.
With Scott scoreless in the first half and Booker on the bench, Johnson stepped up with 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting.
The Buffs began the second half with back-to-back turnovers, the first of which came off an inbounds pass from underneath the basket. CSU took advantage, going on a 6-0 run to grab a 36-32 lead.
Booker and Johnson responded with a 6-0 run of their own. Booker hit a pair of free throws to close within two, and Johnson took his man on the block and converted to tie the contest. One Stanton Kidd turnover later and Booker reclaimed the lead with a mid-range jumper with 14:50 to play.
Tiel Daniels ended the CU run with a layup and a foul on Scott. One minute later and CSU grabbed the lead back with an Avila layup. Speedy guard John Gillon attacked the paint and got to the line a game-high 10 times Wednesday night. Two Gillion foul shots put the Rams up 46-42 with 11:34 to play, tying their largest lead of the evening.
Johnson cut the deficit to two with an authoritative slam after posting up his defender, getting the crowd involved. But Colorado would go on a scoring drought of over two minutes, and CSU took their largest lead of the night (5) when Avila converted an old-fashioned three-point play.
Scott recorded his first points of the game to cut the gap to two. Johnson missed a three that would have given the Buffs their first lead in almost ten minutes. Instead, CSU rattled off six straight point, stretching the lead to eight points with 3:36 to play.
Down the stretch Booker tried to take over like his old backcourt mate Dinwiddie did on a couple occasions against the Rams. Booker hit a mid-range jumper and then nailed a three-pointer to bring the Buffs within three with 2:21 to go. But Booker left Joe De Ciman open in the right corner, and the guard from Canada stuck a three to put the lead back at six with just 1:46 left.
Tip-ins by Johnson and Gordon narrowed the gap to two with 45 seconds to go. Xavier Talton fouled Gian Clavell on the inbound and Clavell hit one-of-two, giving Colorado a chance to tie with a three.
Not necessarily needing a three, Booker fired and missed from downtown. Gordon fouled Stanton Kidd, who converted one-of-two from the line. Booker looked for a quick two, and was fouled by Clavell. Booker missed his first free throw, but made his second, setting the stage for Avila's misses and Booker's drive with under five seconds to play.
Johnson led the Buffs with 20 points. Booker added 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting. Scott finished with two points, his lowest scoring output since he had one points against Washington State last season.
"Bottom line, I think I sucked tonight," said Scott. "I think Ski and XJ, even Wes kept us in the game."
Noted Boyle: "I think if anybody on our team deserves a mulligan, it's Josh Scott. He's been our most consistent player day-in and day-out in practice, game-in and game-out."
Colorado, now 5-3, takes on Northern Colorado Saturday at 4 p.m. CU will once again be without guard Dominique Collier, who missed Wednesday night's game with sprained ligaments in his left wrist.
"We're a decent basketball team right now," said Boyle. "We're not good, we're certainly not great. I don't think we're bad. We're decent. And decent isn't good enough."