The University of Colorado men’s basketball team lost their second straight game in heartbreaking fashion after falling 79-76 to the Northern Iowa Panthers Tuesday.
“Extremely disappointing loss,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “I thought we fought hard in the second half to come back and take the lead but our attention to detail is just not good enough right now.”
Colorado got off to a strange start offensively as junior guard/forward Tyler Bey scored a layup after two straight missed shots by junior guard McKinley Wright in the paint.
After UNI took a 9-3 lead after the first four minutes, senior forward Lucas Siewert got CU’s offense going by drilling two shots from behind the arc on the Buffs’ next two possessions.
The force was with Siewert on Colorado basketball’s Star Wars night as he was seemingly unstoppable with 15 points in only six minutes. Colorado fans awarded the senior with loud applause when he checked out with 9:17 left in the first half.
“I just got into a rhythm early in the game,” Siewert said. “You know, it’s always good when that happens.”
Siewert’s strong performance propelled the Buffs to a seven-point lead with less than four minutes remaining in the half. Needing a run to stay in the game, the Panthers marched back with eight unanswered points to take a 33-32 lead as time expired.
UNI’s late run came primarily from behind the three-point line as they nailed two shots in the final two minutes of the first half. Northern Iowa made it clear from the start they wanted to shoot as many threes as possible and their 42% from behind the arc in the first half kept the Buffaloes at bay.
“The number one thing to not let Northern Iowa come in and beat us is we have to take away their threes,” Boyle said. “That was the number one thing.”
Boyle’s frustrations with the Buffs’ three-point defense was intensified early in the second half as sophomore guard AJ Green hit a three in UNI’s first possession. The Panthers managed to extend their lead to 12 with 18:04 remaining in the game thanks to five points from senior guard Isaiah Brown.
Facing their biggest deficit of the game, sophomore guard Eli Parquet went on a 5-0 run to put the Buffaloes within eight. Parquet’s mini-run was enough to wake up CU’s offense. The Buffs finally took back the lead with another Siewert three with 10:10 left on the clock.
Siewert’s impact on the game was invaluable as he finished the night with a career-high of 21 points, four rebounds and shot 5-7 from three.
“I was proud of Lucas,” Boyle said. “Lucas made shots tonight.”
Both teams traded baskets in the final five minutes and neither team was able to hold a lead larger than five points. Colorado was able to carve out a three-point advantage with 1:39 remaining but then immediately watched Green hit a triple on the next possession to tie the game.
Giving up the three was clearly a gut punch to the Buffs but they still had a chance to take the lead with less than a minute in the game. But their chance vanished in an instant as Wright threw a bad pass that was intercepted by senior guard Spencer Haldeman, who scored an easy layup to give the Panthers a two-point lead.
“We had a set call and they double-teamed me off the ball screen,” Wright said. “I was trying to hit the short roller and their backside came up to help and jumped the pass. I should’ve just kept it and called timeout. I made a mistake, made the wrong read.”
The steal effectively ended any legitimate shot CU had to retake the lead as their last two possessions ended in a block and a missed three as time expired.
“Northern Iowa out-executed us tonight,” Boyle said. “They deserved to win. We did not.”
The Buffaloes will attempt to right the ship when they travel to Fort Collins to play the rival Rams on Friday, Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. MST.
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