The No. 24-ranked Colorado Buffaloes (19-5, 8-3 Pac-12 ) rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit to defeat the Stanford Cardinal 81-74 at the CU Events Center Saturday evening.
Stanford (16-7, 5-5 Pac-12) entered the game short-handed with starting sophomore guard Bryce Wills missing the game due to an ankle injury that he suffered in SU’s 64-56 overtime loss at Utah. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, there was more to come, and in shocking and dramatic fashion, on the note of injuries.
With the Buffaloes down 41-30 a few minutes into the second half, sophomore forward Evan Battey picked up a steal and moved at full speed in transition towards the Cardinal’s net. He was pursued closely by Stanford’s Oscar da Silva, and as Battey went airborne attempting a layup, the two players (Battey is 6-foot-8 and 262 pounds, da Silva is 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds) collided.
The result was a violent crash onto the court, with Battey’s right elbow making contact with da Silva’s head on the way down. The collision left da Silva knocked out unconscious for minutes with blood visible at the scene.
Stanford head coach Jerrod Hasse said after the game that he expects da Silva, who walked off the court under his own power to “be fine,” but the crash affected players, coaches and fans alike tremendously, stopping play for 10 minutes or so. Battey was extremely shaken up in the aftermath of it, for the rest of the game and afterwards.
“I was emotional,” Battey said. “I’m a big dude. I had my eyes closed when I went up (to score the ball) and I elbowed (da Silva) in the face. I saw his reaction and the way he was landing and just broke down.”
After da Silva exited the floor, Stanford and Colorado players gathered at half court, embraced in a circle and said a prayer for da Silva.
“It was emotional,” Buffs head coach Tad Boyle said. “I think the way their coaches and their players responded and the way our players responded was really special.”
Da Silva will require stitches to his forehead, but all in all, it appears he will leave Boulder having avoided a potentially calamitous injury. The Buffs and the Cardinal sharing a few minutes of solidarity to express mutual goodwill towards da Silva was a tremendous display of sportsmanship.
The frightening situation with da Silva notwithstanding, Colorado’s defeat of Stanford marked the third-largest second half comeback win in program history.
“We knew we couldn’t afford to lose this game,” said junior guard McKinley Wright. “We have a target on our back since we are the number one team in the Pac-12, so everyone’s going to give us their best shot.”
Things looked good for CU early as senior guard Shane Gatling drilled a three-pointer on their opening possession. However, that first make ended up being an outlier as the Buffs proceeded to miss their next eight shots. The only offense Colorado could find in the first 10 minutes came at the free throw line where they made five of their first six attempts.
The drought finally came to an end when junior guard/forward Maddox Daniels made an easy layup with 11:59 left in the first half. Still, the much-needed field goal wasn’t enough to get the Buffaloes going offensively. A combination of solid defense by Stanford and a handful of missed shots left CU frustrated.
The Cardinal didn’t have their best offensive showing in the opening half either with a 40.7 percentage from the field. But thanks to junior guard Isaac White’s 3-of-4 shooting from three and a late technical foul called on head coach Tad Boyle, Stanford propelled themselves to a 33-22 half time lead.
Colorado stayed confident going into the locker room despite their poor performance.
“Coach got on us a little at half time but he told us we were going to win the game,” Wright said. “He knew it was going to come down to stops and guarding the ball.”
CU caught fire soon after returning to play following the da Silva injury and a made three-pointer by Wright at the 11:12 mark tied the game at 49 after CU was trailing by as much as 16 points. After a lengthy wait, the Buffs finally looked like the No. 24 team in the country and were able to take a two point lead after a made layup by Battey with 10:10 left in the game.
Colorado couldn’t be stopped once it took the lead. After their rough shooting in the first half, the Buffs were a perfect 8-of-8 from three-point land and shot an impressive 70 percent from the field. Stanford still made shots down the stretch but the Buffs kept their lead the rest of the way with strong performances on both sides of the ball.
Junior guard/forward D’Shawn Schwartz was huge contributor to CU’s run by scoring 15 of his 20 points in the second half. The team was also aided by Wright’s team-high 21 points and another double-double by junior guard/forward Tyler Bey who finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
“Stanford is a very, very good basketball team,” Boyle said. “We beat a really good team.”
The Buffaloes now have a tough test in front of them as they get set for a two-game road trip at Oregon and Oregon State.
“We know that the Oregon trips tough and Oregon’s one of the most talented teams in our league,” Boyle said. “It’s not easy to win there. We’re gonna have to strap our boots up and lace them up and go let it all hang out.”
The Buffs travel to Eugene for a showdown with Oregon on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. MST.
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