Junior guard Cory Higgins goes in for a layup during Tuesday’s basketball game against Baylor. Higgins scored 18 points to lead the Buffs to a 78-71 victory. (CU Independent/Sara Fossum)
The original version of this story incorrectly stated that CU head coach Jeff Bzdelik has held his position for three-plus years. Bzdelik was named CU head men’s basketball coach on April 4, 2007, which is less than three years ago. The original version also stated that Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn scored 11 straight points in the first half to give Baylor a 5-point halftime lead. In actuality, Dunn scored 12 consecutive. Furthermore, the Buffs are fourth in the nation in free-throw shooting, not second as originally stated. 1/13/10; 09:23
Once again, home cooking was just what the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team needed.
By the time the final buzzer rang, five players had scored in double figures as the Buffs knocked off the No. 22 Baylor Bears 78-71 Tuesday in front of a season-high 6,957 spectators at the Coors Event Center.
Prior to the matchup, the Buffs’ 8-0 home record this season may have been the only thing going in the team’s favor. They remain perfect at home, now 9-0, and their last four home wins have followed road losses. CU lost to then-No. 2 Texas 103-86 Saturday.
With the win, the Buffs improve to 10-6 overall and 1-1 in the Big 12 Conference. The loss was only the second of the year for Baylor (13-2), who is also 1-1 in the Big 12.
Junior Cory Higgins led the Buffs with 18 points, but received help from his usual cohorts. Freshman Alec Burks had 16 points, Nate Tomlinson added 11 and Dwight Thorne II scored 10.
Thorne played stellar defense as head coach Jeff Bzdelik matched him up with Baylor’s Tweety Carter, a long-time rival and friend of Thorne’s from his high school days in Texas. Thorne held Carter to 13 points.
After a disappointing start to his first year as a Buffalo, junior forward Marcus Relphorde followed up a 24-point performance at Texas with his second straight offensive outburst, scoring 17 points to go along with a team-high seven rebounds. Relphore said his approach was to get to the foul line with strong drives to the basket instead of settling for jump shots.
“The strategy was to be more aggressive because they have a lot of shot-blockers,” Relphorde said. “So if we could drive and kick it or drive it in, that was the game-plan.”
Bzdelik, who notched his first victory over a ranked opponent in his third season in Boulder, said he is excited to finally see what he expected out of Relphorde, a junior college transfer from Indian Hills Community College in Iowa.
“Marcus has had five different coaches in five years,” Bzdelik said. “That’s difficult on anybody to understand their role. For him to finally understand what we expect out of him and how he fits has made him more instinctive and less robotic.”
The Buffs led by as much as seven with 8:50 to go in the first half, but the Bears’ LaceDarius Dunn scored 12 straight points including three consecutive 3-pointers to give Baylor a 32-27 lead at the half.
The Buffs showed some much-needed grit and came out strong to start the second half, tying the game at 40. Later, Thorne’s jumper gave CU a 52-51 advantage, a lead the Buffs wouldn’t relinquish for the final 6:50.
Free-throw shooting, an Achilles heel in years past for Colorado, was as stellar as it has been all season (the team is currently fourth in the nation in team free-throw percentage), especially in the final few minutes. The Buffs scored their last 12 points from the charity stripe.
Baylor cut CU’s lead from 10 down to six at 74-68 after a couple of 3-pointers by Carter, but that’s as close as the Bears got. Dunn led Baylor in scoring with 23 points, but his threat as a long-range shooter was neutralized when he fouled out in the final minute.
CU’s victory was the second game of a brutal three-game stretch for the Buffaloes as they start conference play. The Buffs now face No. 13 Kansas State in Boulder this Saturday at 2 p.m. to complete the trifecta.
But after the fans helped spur the Buffs to their impressive victory, the players are confident the milestone win is just the first of many to come.
“We had great fan support today,” Relphorde said. “It was crazy. If we could have that every game and feed off that, I think it will help us get a lot of wins this season.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer David Starcer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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