The Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team arrived in Tempe, Arizona, on Thursday with the intention of winning its first Pac-12 Conference game. Standing in the Buffs’ way was Arizona State. In a game that came down to the final seconds, the Sun Devils defeated Colorado, 78-77.
The Buffaloes lost the services of senior guard/forward Xavier Johnson. He was ejected late in the first half following an altercation with ASU’s Jethro Tshisumpa.
The incident happened following both players colliding after going for the ball. They were wrapped up and both fell out of bounds. Teammates had to restrain both players, who were both tossed after the brief heated moment.
Johnson will likely miss Colorado’s next contest versus Arizona this Saturday, per NCAA guidelines for fighting-related ejections.
Johnson scored the first seven points of the game for Colorado. Neither team had a lead greater than three points until the 11:04 mark in the first half, when ASU’s Tra Holder sank a three-pointer. The Sun Devils went up 17-12.
Arizona State increased its lead to eight in the following minutes, but the Buffs fought back. Colorado came to within three points thanks to baskets by Johnson and senior forward Wesley Gordon.
The Buffaloes (10-5, 0-2 Pac-12) were led offensively by senior guard Derrick White. He scored 35 points in the game, going 10-of-20 from the floor. White’s 20 attempted shots were just four less than the Buffs’ other four starters combined. The guard also made all 12 of his free throw attempts while making three shots from beyond the arch.
As a unit, the Buffs were effective from the free throw line, making 18-of-20 charity shots.
The Buffaloes hung around, but were unable to retake the lead in the first half. The team headed to the locker room down 41-37. Johnson and White sustained the team offensively during the first half, with the former dropping 13 and White scoring 10.
For the final half, the Buffaloes played well without the services of Johnson. But four minutes into the half, Colorado found itself in a nine-point hole, 48-39, in part to two turnovers committed by CU.
The Buffs would face two more nine-point deficits within the next three minutes, before finally plugging the holes in the ship and retaking the lead. With the team down 55-46 with just over 14 minutes left in the contest, Colorado went on a 10-0 run. This gave the Buffs a one-point lead, the first such occurrence in the half.
White accounted for five of the points during that stretch. The game was neck and neck the rest of that way, with both teams answering each other with good plays and made baskets.
The biggest lead either team would enjoy in the final 10 minutes was a four-point edge that ASU maintained briefly with just over eight minutes to go.
White scored Colorado’s final nine points in the game and had 25 of his 35 points in the final half. But White was called for a foul on Holder with just two seconds left in the game. Holder went to the free throw line and sank his two shots, giving ASU the 78-77 lead.
With one second remaining, junior guard George King attempted a three-pointer but missed as the clock showed all zeroes.
Colorado dropped its second Pac-12 game in a row and remains winless in conference play.
The team, largely thanks to White’s individual stat line, shot well from the floor, making nearly 46 percent of its baskets. Colorado was pretty bad from long range, however, making just 5-of-22 shots from beyond the arch.
White did not receive much help from the rest of the Buffs’ starters, excluding Johnson. Gordon, King and senior guard Josh Fortune combined for just 13 points. Junior forward Tory Miller was good off the bench. He scored eight points and snagged four rebounds in his 15 minutes played.
Up next for CU is a road game in Tucson this Saturday, versus the Arizona Wildcats. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. (MST)
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo