Contact CU Independent Men’s Basketball Beat Writer Alissa Noe at email@example.com
In perhaps one of its biggest rematches of the year, the University of Colorado men’s basketball team narrowly escaped with a victory over Washington at home on Saturday afternoon, 81-80.
“Well, another nail-biter. That game didn’t need to be as close as it was. I do think you have to give Washington credit, but anyone [who’s] watched them play or saw them live today knows that they’ve got a lot of talented players on that team,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said.
With 56 seconds left on the clock and an 81-78 Buffalo edge, freshman guard Thomas Akyazili was called for a technical and Washington’s senior guard Andrew Andrews sunk both free throws while regaining possession.
With the game literally in his hands, Andrews made the questionable decision to shoot a jumper instead of opting to drive for a layup with five seconds left, and missed it. Junior forward Wesley Gordon recovered the rebound for the Buffs, subsequently got fouled, and missed both free throws. But the clock was not kind to the Huskies, who turned the ball over on an inbounds pass with just one second left.
With five minutes left in the first half, the Buffs had amassed a 17-point lead over the Huskies, 33-16. But that didn’t seem to matter down the stretch, as Washington orchestrated a comeback that came just short of knocking off the Buffaloes in Boulder.
Gordon recorded his 10th career double-double, and third in as many games, with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while also recording four blocks.
For the game, five Buffs contributed double-digit scoring, led by Gordon, junior guard Josh Fortune (13), sophomore guard George King (10), junior guard/forward Tre’Shaun Fletcher (10) and sophomore guard Dominique Collier (10).
The Buffs shot 40.6 percent from the field (28-of-69) and 29.4 percent from the three-point range (5-of-17), but they also committed 22 turnovers. The biggest differences in the game, however, were their 33 bench points and 55 rebounds to Washington’s 11 and 35, respectively.
Colorado managed that impressive rebounding performance without senior forward Josh Scott, the team’s top rebounder with 9.1 per game, who remains sidelined with an ankle injury he sustained at Oregon State the week before.
“Just our fight and our effort, I think that’s really important in games like this especially, like I said, the day before yesterday. When we’re down our best player, everybody’s got to step up just a little bit,” King said.
On the other side of the ball, the Huskies shot 39.1 percent (27-of-69) and 9-of-22 from beyond the arc (40.9 percent). They only committed 14 turnovers and were led in scoring by Andrews and Marquese Chriss, who each added 18 points.
The game got off to a quick start, as the Huskies got up early and the Buffs kept pace. Five minutes in, the Buffs tied it up at eight, and then took over with an 11-3 run and never looked back. Throughout the remainder of the half, the Buffs continued the pain train as they amassed as much as a 17-point lead with five minutes remaining, 33-16. No matter how hard the Huskies tried to fight back, they couldn’t quite shake the Buffaloes. By the time the buzzer sounded for the break, they cut Colorado’s lead back to 12, 46-34.
At the start of the second, the Huskies came out with a chip on their shoulders, as they scored eight quick points before the Buffs were able to respond. And though a 13-2 run brought the Huskies within one point, 48-47, the Buffs didn’t lose the lead.
Six and a half minutes into the second half, nine straight points from Thomas Akyazili reignited the spark from the first half that the Buffaloes struggled to find early in the second. After that, they extended their lead to double digits again in no time.
But the game was far from over.
With 1:38 left on the clock, the Huskies pulled to within one point, 79-78. After a Colorado score, Washington did it again with 56 seconds left, after Akyazili fouled out with a technical and relinquished two free throws to Andrews and a crucial Husky possession. But when Andrews missed a jumper with five seconds left, it was all said and done in Boulder.
“I didn’t see it. It was down at the end of their bench. Very unfortunate, but again, something that Thomas needs to learn from. Not only does Thomas need to learn from it, our entire roster needs to learn from it. That can’t happen at that point in the game. We have to play with poise and not let that occur,” Boyle said.
The Buffs snuck out with an important home victory over a talented Washington team, 81-80, and earned some redemption in the process.
“It’s a great win for us. It means a lot just because we showed our resiliency — I think I said that right — with Josh coming and then the double overtime win then a nice, quick turnaround we played today,” Gordon said. “We just pulled together as a team. That’s our biggest strength, is our team.”
The Buffs head next to USC on Wednesday, Feb. 17 as they take on the Trojans at 9 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.