Contact CU Independent Men’s Basketball Beat Writer Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org
First up in the Pac-12 Conference, during the second game of the day, fifth-seeded Colorado will take on the No. 12-seed in Washington State. And although the Cougars are a measly 1-17 in conference play and 9-21 overall, they are not a team to be messed with.
In both of their previous contests this season, the Buffaloes almost fell to the Cougs in what became a predictable pattern of getting up big in the second half and then failing defensively down the stretch.
They’re not a bad team by any means, despite what their record might indicate.
In the last meeting in Boulder, the Cougs wouldn’t fade away silently into the night after going down by double digits midway through the second half, and ended up tying the game to force a first overtime. When all hope seemed to be lost in extra time, down three, Colorado’s royal assassin George King hit a three at the buzzer to ensure the Buffs would get another chance at victory.
And they proved five more minutes was all it would take. By the end of double OT, the Buffs got away with an 88-81 decisive score.
The game in Wazzu just a month before was no less exciting, as the Buffs snuck out with a narrow 75-70 after a late-game defensive breakdown.
In Vegas, rules are left behind and everything is left on the floor. For the Cougars, this game against Colorado will be do or die with no hope of a higher-level tournament bid, and all bets are off. It’s a whole new ballgame in the postseason.
But before I get too ahead of myself, I’ll explain why you shouldn’t take Washington State for granted.
For one, the Cougs have the conference leader in double-doubles in Josh Hawkinson, who’s already secured 20 in just 30 games. On the season, he’s averaging 15.6 points a contest and 11 rebounds.
And along with Ike Iroegbu and Que Johnson, their offense can be absolutely lethal. In their first matchup, Iroegbu finished with 27 points, Hawkinson with 12 and 10 rebounds. In Boulder, Hawkinson added 18 more points and 13 boards, trailing Que Johnson, who had 25 savage points.
Now, the Cougars are only averaging about 46 percent field shooting and 35 percent from long range, with 71 points per game, but they’re edging out CU who’s shooting 42.8 percent per game. However, none can beat the Buffaloes in three-point shooting — seriously, they’re No. 1 in the conference — as they averaged a near-40 percent from behind the arc during the regular season and are marking up 75.8 ppg.
Either way, the neutral court and level-playing field will make this an interesting first game for Colorado, and it’s sure to be a doozy. Expect a close game like any other, and keep your eye on Hawkinson, Iroegbu and Johnson to make a big move to try to silence the Buffaloes.
Tipoff is at 3:30 mountain time and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. You can also follow @crazysportgirl1 on Twitter for live updates for those of you at work or in class.