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Buffaloes endanger Cougars, 82-73

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The Buffs almost collapsed, but they held strong.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes (12-7, 4-3 in Pac-12) are coming off one of the best four-game stretches in program history and they continued that hot run with a convincing 82-73 win over the Washington State Cougars (9-9, 1-5).

The Buffs spent most of the first half staying steady with the Cougs, but they pulled away just before halftime. It’s great to see the Buffs excel without McKinley Wright or George King catching fire, and that’s exactly what they did as Dominique Collier, Namon Wright and Lucas Siewert led the way with 28 of CU’s 42 first half points. Collier in particular impressed as he had 12 points on just 4 shots in nine minutes, possibly the best half Collier has played with the Buffs and it helps the team so much that he has finally broken out.

Not to be outdone by their 59% shooting, the Buffs defense was also excellent early on. CU’s defense, which is arguably the best in the Pac-12, held Wazzu to a meager 33% shooting from the field and 31% on high-volume three-point shooting. Perhaps no play illustrated the defense’s performance at this: WSU’s Drick Bernstine (a Colorado native with a fake name) drove to the paint and was blocked by Tyler Bey, then he regathered the rebound and was promptly blocked (and embarrassed) out of nowhere by Namon Wright.

No matter how big of a halftime lead, the Buffs are capable of losing it in astonishing efficiency. After building a 26-point lead with 15:07 to play, it took only 7 minutes for that to dwindle down to a 5-point CU lead. In that run, the Buffs struggled with turnovers and shot making just as Wazzu lit it up from deep. Colorado’s kryptonite has always been zone defense and white three-point specialists; the Cougars had plenty of the latter, most notably Carter Skaggs, who had 17 second half points, each followed by the same intolerable celebration.

After nearly collapsing, Colorado figured out how not to completely screw it up. The key was to stop letting Washington State shoot wide-open triples, and also to hold onto the ball and make some shots. That’s much easier said than done, of course, but it sure helps to have McKinley Wright there to ball out when you need him to. The immortal freshman carried the team with 13 second half points, including back-to-back buckets that ended the Cougars’ run and regained control for CU. After that, the Buffs more or less ran out the clock to seal the 82-73 win.

Next up for Colorado is a home game against the Washington Huskies (13-5, 3-2) that tips off on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and will be aired on Pac-12 Networks. The Huskies are a solid team and the Buffs will have to come out focused to come out on top.