Despite committing 16 turnovers and 27 fouls, Colorado men’s basketball came from behind to beat the Kansas State Wildcats 58-56 in front of 11,502 at the Coors Events Center Saturday night. The Buffs now sit with a record of 16-10 (5-6 Big 12) while the Wildcats are 16-9 (4-6 Big 12).
Senior guard Cory Higgins led all scorers with 17 points followed by senior guard Levi Knutson with 16. Sophomore guard Alec Burks failed to score in double digits, but grabbed a game high 10 rebounds.
Kansas State had three scorers in double digits. Junior forward Jamar Samuels scored 13, senior guard Jacob Pullen had 12 and sophomore guard Rodney McGruder had 11.
The Buffs shot 44.2 percent from the floor, going 81.8 percent from the foul line and 20 percent from behind the 3-point arc. The Wildcats made 30.8 percent of their field goals, 30 percent of their 3-point attempts and 58.1 percent of their free throws.
“We needed [the win] bad,” Higgins said. “We felt like we’ve played hard enough to win a lot of these game that we’ve dropped. We just need to reinforce that the things that we are doing, do work.”
The first half was plagued by turnovers, as the Buffs had 11 and the Wildcats had six. Despite Kansas State taking a small lead, neither team looked impressive. The Buffs shot 28.6 percent from the field, compared to 47.8 percent Wednesday night against Texas A&M.
One highlight to come from the first half was a block by freshman center Ben Mills that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Other than that there was very little action. The Buffs finished that half with a season-low 21 points, and trailed the Wildcats by two going into the locker room.
Colorado Head Coach Tad Boyle said he was happy with the way his team defended in the first half, even if they didn’t produce on offense.
“The thing I’m most proud of with our guys is that we didn’t let our frustrations on the offensive side bleed to the defensive end,” Boyle said. “In past games, we’ve done that.”
The Buffs came out of the gates hot in the second half. Knutson hit a three on the first possession of the half, giving the Buffs the lead.
The lead was stretched to as many as eight, but the Wildcats hung around, never letting Colorado sit comfortably.
The high drama was saved for the closing second.
With senior guard Marcus Relphorde and freshman forward Andre Roberson fouled out, the Buffs clung to a three point lead, and were hitting clutch free throws. With four seconds left, Knutson fouled Pullen. Pullen hit his first free throw, but missed his second. Kansas State manged to grab the rebound, and took a timeout with 1.1 left in the game.
Out of the timeout, a pass found McGruder, whose 3-pointer at the buzzer looked as if it would give Kansas State the win. With the CU faithful’s collective heart sinking, the refs took a look at the replay to confirm the call. It was reversed, and the Coors Events Center erupted with cheers.Burks, who was defending McGruder on the final play, said he was sure the basket wouldn’t count.
“I saw the red light when he was shooting in my face,” Burks said. “I knew he couldn’t have gotten it off in time.”
Pullen said he was was upset with how the game ended.
“It’s tough, it is up-and-down emotion really fast,” Pullen said. “You go from thinking you just won the game with a buzzer-beater to losing the game by one shot.”
Higgins said he thought the bench came up big for the Buffs.
“Our whole bench was huge, we really feel that they won that game for us,” Higgins said. “They really got it going in the first half, and they really set the tone for our starters to step up.”
The Buffs hit the road next, where they will take on the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kan. at noon on Saturday.
Contact CU Independent Sport Editor Mark McNeillie at Mark.firstname.lastname@example.org.