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Colorado Basketball Week 15: The Last Days of Ski Booker

The Buffs split their last home stand of the season against Arizona and Arizona State, with all the highs and lows expected between both games.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Despite getting blown out to Arizona last Thursday night, the Buffs managed to make up for it with their win over Arizona State on Sunday. However more important than the win is the fact that the ASU marked the final game Askia Booker would ever play in the Coors Event Center. It is no doubt the end of an era that ever Buff fan will never forget. Thankfully, the Buffs came together to deliver when it matter most for Booker.

The Arizona Recap: The Buffs were overmatched and overwhelmed. Right out the gate Arizona took over, and displayed why they deserve to be a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Colorado never had a chance to lead once during the game. That being said, the Buffs fought all they could. However, it wasn't enough. At halftime the Wildcats led the Buffaloes 37-25. It only got worse from there. In the second half, Colorado decided not to cover Gabe York and that ended horribly. Still, the Arizona six man was only one of their problems. The Buffs had absolutely no control of this game, it was a runaway train that trampled the entire herd. When the dust settled Arizona strolled out with a 82-54 win.

The ASU Recap: On senior night the Buffs came to play. Even though CU began the game a little foggy brained, they managed to pull it together. Colorado took their first lead of the game five minutes with a deep three from none other than Askia Booker, to put the Buffs up 8-6. The Buffs quickly lost that lead but fought their way back into the game, and with 8:31 remaining Dustin Thomas cranked down an emphatic dunk to give CU a 19-18 lead. Colorado cherished this lead much more. Each time ASU would knock on the door, Colorado fended them off. At the half the CU led 40-38. The Buffs started off the second half firing on all cylinders and built up their lead behind Askia Booker's star performance. Still, no matter how much CU led by, the Sun Devils always came back. In the final minutes of the game, the refs took the game over and ASU stole back the lead, 72-70. Suddenly the long forgotten beast, Josh Scott, awoke. Down the stretch, Scott hit a crucial and one to give the Buffs the lead again, blocked a shot to protect CU's narrow lead, and tipped in a missed free throw to seal the win by putting CU up by five with less than a minute to play. In the end CU won 87-81.

What Went Wrong: At this point in the season, if you haven't figured it out by now the Buffs always struggle to defend the three point shooter, inbounds the ball, and protect the middle. It's pointless to belabor over these unyielding issues, rather with the season winding down, it is much healthier to focus on the positives. The only new problem this week came from the fans, or lack of fans actually. Even with Booker's near perfect game, the one thing that Askia didn't have was a packed Coors Event Center. Ski has given his heart and soul to this program. He's one of the best guards to ever put on a Colorado uniform, and as fans we came up a little short when it came to the moment we could return everything he gave us these past four years. To the fans who were there, you all did a great job. But to those who watched the game from their couch, I'm disappointed. Booker deserved a five minute standing ovation, he didn't get that.

What Went Right: The Buffs finally showed they actually have confidence in themselves with their win over Arizona State. They fought hard and each player was able to contribute to the win to the best of their abilities. Scott finally found his early season self again, Hopkins had several strong takes to the rim on offense, and Thomas played an excellent game on both offense and defense. It's amazing to see what a little confidence and a pinch of worry free play can do for a team. Colorado managed to dial in the exact pace needed so that their offense was quick, but not hurried. They were able to tire ASU out with their offensive tempo, but at the same time they were selective in their shot selection, for the most part. The Buffs shot a whopping 59.2% from the field, one of the highest percentages all year for the Black and Gold. CU, besides shooting well, moved the ball efficiently as well. They totaled up 14 assists in that game, while only coughing up the ball 11 times. It was also promising to see how well the Buffs responded to that awful Arizona loss, which was coined as Colorado's "Rock Bottom." (I could honestly imagine a lot worse for a rock bottom, but it was still much less than ideal). Nevertheless, the Buffs managed to strap it down, overcome all the negativity and doubt, and give Askia one last win on his home court. Lastly, Askia Booker was nothing less than brilliant on his senior night. Even with Herb Sendek, ASU, and even a few disgruntled Buffs fans heckling him along the way, Booker delivered a senior night performance for the ages. Booker dropped 29 points, grabbed three boards, had two assists, and two steals for the icing on the cake. Askia Booker deserved the perfect game off for his last performance in the Coors Event Center, and boy did he get it and then some. Thank you Ski, thank you for everything you've given us.

The Buffs have one week and then the Pac-12 Tournament to make something meaningful of this season. Maybe CU can pick up one or two road before it's all said and done. Anything's possible in the Pac-12, but don't get your hopes up. Just savor this ASU victory as long as it will last because that's the very best were getting in Boulder until next November.