Upon its return home, the CU men’s basketball team looked as comfortable as ever.
After losing two straight conference road games, the CU Buffaloes beat the Arizona State Sun Devils 69-54 in front of a crowd of 8,278 Thursday night at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colo.
“I thought our focus tonight was terrific,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Our mental focus was there for pretty much the whole 40 minutes, and against Arizona State you need that, because they’re a grind-it-out team.”
CU shot 48.9 percent, going 3-of-14 on 3-pointers and 20-of-25 on free throws. Arizona State shot 47.1 percent from the field, going 8-of-22 behind the arc and 6-of-9 from the foul line. The Buffs out-rebounded the the Sun Devils 34-22, and never trailed.
Arizona State junior guard Chris Colvin led all scorers with 15 points, going 6-of-11 from the field. Junior forward Carrick Felix scored 13 points and freshman forward Jonathan Gilling had 12.
Freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie and sophomore forward Andre Roberson led the Buffs, both finishing the game with 12 points. Senior forward Austin Dufault and freshman guard Askia Booker both had 11.
The Buffs came out strong defensively at the start of the game, only allowing one Arizona State basket until the 11:08 mark. As a team, CU shot 50 percent from the field, going 2-of-6 from behind the 3-point arc and 7-of-9 from the foul line.
Senior guard Nate Tomlinson was perfect from the field, shooting 3-for-3, including the Buffs’ two first half 3-pointers. Tomlinson led the Buffs in first half scoring with 8 points, followed by Austin Dufault, who had 7 points and 4 rebounds.
Arizona State shot 33.3 percent from the field in the first half, making two 3-pointers and a single free throw, despite four attempts. Colvin led the Sun Devils with 7 points, and like Tomlinson, shot 3-for-3, but only made one 3-pointer and missed one foul shot.
The Buffs took a 31-15 lead to the locker room at halftime.
For the fourth time this season, the Buffs held an opponent to under 20 points in the first half. The players said they were happy with the tone they set early in the game.
“It was really big, especially since in the second half at Stanford, we really didn’t defend that well,” Tomlinson said. “We just wanted to come back and get back to what we do, and I think we did a pretty good job of that in the first half.”
Despite a continued strong showing in the second half, the Buffs could not stretch their lead over 19 points. The Sun Devils kept pushing and cut the lead to 14 points before Roberson threw down a dunk that got the packed student section rocking, and shifted momentum back in the Buffs’ favor.
A few minutes later, Arizona State head coach Herb Sendeck was given two technical fouls while arguing a call, and was thrown out of the game. Dinwiddie hit all four of the technical free throws, and from there, the Buffs cruised to a victory.
After the game, Dufault said the crowd — including the students who had just returned from winter break — helped get the players motivated throughout the game.
“The last couple years, they’ve really been supporting us well,” Dufault said. “It’s just nice for school to be back in session, so everybody’s back now and they can come out to the games. [The crowd] was great, gave us a lot of energy.”
The Buffs will take on the University of Arizona Wildcats at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21 at the Coors Events Center.
Without UCLA coming to Boulder this year, Boyle said he thinks playing Arizona will be one of the biggest conference games this season for the Buffs.
“Marquee game,” Boyle said, “I think our fans are ready for it. I know our players are ready for it, and us coaches will be ready for it. I think we can have the best home-court advantage in the Pac-12.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Mark McNeillie at Mark.email@example.com.