It took three tries, but the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team can say they will leave Hawaii with a win.
The Buffs beat the Chaminade Silverswords 73-58 Wednesday to finish in seventh place at the 2009 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational in the Lahaina Civic Center. In the first two days of the tourney, CU suffered four-point losses to Gonzaga and Arizona.
Although the score may have indicated the Buffs had an easy time with Chaminade, a Division II school, it was hardly the case. Associate head coach Steve McClain, who was filling in for head coach Jeff Bzdelik after Bzdelik left for Chicago on Sunday to be with his ailing mother, said he had to manage the team to victory.
“You come here and you lay it all on the line the first couple nights,” McClain said on www.cubuffs.com. “Even one of the referees came up to me before the game and said, ‘Steve, you could easily be 2-0 and playing in the championship tonight.’ I knew the kids had the right attitude in the locker room, but I also knew that the same energy wouldn’t be there. When you line up and leave it all out there every night, to come back and play a Division II team, you can say everything you want in your own mind but it isn’t the same. My whole goal was to manage it to the point where we could get out of here with a win.”
After freshman center Shane Harris-Tunks’ dunk gave CU an eight-point lead, Chaminade converted a 3-point play sandwiched by a pair of 3-pointers as part of a 9-0 run to take a 19-18 lead with 2:30 left in the first half. From that point on, the lead changed hands twice and the score was tied four times.
CU (4-2) took the lead for good when junior forward Marcus Relphorde nailed a 3-pointer with 14:25 left to give the Buffs a 38-36 advantage. Relphorde’s basket started a barrage of trifectas as the Buffs went on a 19-8 run on the strength of five 3-pointers.
Relphorde and freshman guard Alec Burks each had a team-high 13 points while sophomore forward Austin Dufault added 12. Junior guard Cory Higgins, the team’s leading scorer, was held to six points after sitting out most of the first half because of foul trouble.
Junior guard Steven Bennett led the Silverswords with a game-high 22 points thanks to five trifectas.
The Buffs will return home to take on the San Francisco Dons at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Coors Events Center.
Contact CU Independent Co-Sports Editor Cheng Sio at Cheng.firstname.lastname@example.org.