Not since 1997, when the Buffs defeated Nebraska at home, had Colorado relished in a victory in their opening conference match up. But the past remains the past.
On Saturday afternoon, the Buffs (12-4, 1-0 Big 12) handed the No. 9 Tigers (14-2, 0-1 Big 12) only their second loss of the season with an 89-76 win in front of a rowdy crowd of 8,694 at the Coors Events Center.
Snapping their opponent’s nine-game winning streak, the Buffs also ended an eight-game losing streak against the Tigers. Colorado now owns five straight victories.
Sophomore guard Alec Burks put on a show for the NBA scouts who were keeping a watchful eye on the talented Missouri native.
“We showed that we could play with anyone in the Big 12, anybody ranked,” Burks said after the game. “It’s a statement game for us.”
Burks scored a career-high 36 points as he went three for three on all 3-point efforts, and was a solid 12 for 19 in field goal attempts. The sophomore was 9 points shy of tying the Colorado record: 47 points scored by Cliff Meely against Oklahoma in 1971.
First year head coach Tad Boyle offered some praise on Burks’ offensive showing.
“He took it to another level offensively,” Boyle said.
Three other Buffs notched up double-digit points, including junior forward Austin Dufault with 12 and senior guard Levi Knutson with 13.
The third, Cory Higgins, recorded his first double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“We expected to win this game; it’s how we’ve been preparing,” Higgins said. “It really felt great to execute the game plan and have it show up on the scoreboard.”
“I’m glad we took a huge step,” he said. “It opens up people’s eyes in the Big 12.”
The Buffs led in rebounds with 47 over Missouri’s 33, a factor Dufault said was due to players attacking the ball as a team once it bounced off the rim.
“We just did the little things right,” Dufault said. “I feel like when a shot was up in there everybody was getting on a body. Nobody was standing and spectating.”
Boyle said it was a great win for the program.
“I don’t even know where to start,” Boyle said about his team’s victory. “Today…is the way we want Saturdays to be in January and February for the Colorado basketball program for years to come.”
Despite facing the highest-scoring team in the Big 12, Boyle said he decided to keep his squad attack-minded.
“That’s the big question you have to make as a coach–do you attack or do you just brake it and make them work,” he said. “You have to do a combination of both. Our guys did a good job of that.”
Missouri head coach Mike Anderson also said the Buffs did a good job of attacking and that his team didn’t do a good job offensively.
“I thought the game was pretty tough,” Anderson said. “On the road there are a lot of things you have to do well. We didn’t do those things well.”
As expected, both schools began the game with a high-energy offense as the Tigers took an early lead before the Buffs notched up their first lead of the game with 16:15 remaining in the half.
In a game rich in thrilling play, it was that play that gave the Buffs the lead and ended up as one of the more memorable of the first half.
After blocking a Missouri shot, freshman guard Andre Roberson tipped the ball in for two, after a series of rebounds at the opposite side of the court, giving Colorado a 16-15 advantage.
With 2:17 remaining in the first half, Dufault knocked down Burks’ miss. The crowd erupted like a volcano as the Buffs continued adding to their lead 42-34.
The Buffs would go into the locker room at halftime with a 46-34 lead. Burks ended the half with 20 points.
Midway through the second half, redshirt freshman guard Shannon Sharpe displayed his defensive prowess. After a losing the ball to Missouri’s Kim English, Sharpe darted back and blocked English’s shot to help recover the ball for the Buffs.
As time decreased, so did CU’s lead.
Missouri was able to come within eight points in the closing minutes of the game. The Buffs shut down any hopes of a Missouri comeback with successful free throws from Burks late in the game.
When asked how significant the win was for Higgins, who went perfect from the free throw line for the ninth game of the season, the senior gave a quick response.
“I think it would be number one,” he said.
Up next for the Buffs are the No. 17 Kansas State Wildcats on January 12 at the Fred Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Esteban L. Hernandez at Esteban.email@example.com.