The CU Events Center erupted in excitement as the Colorado Buffaloes completed an underdog story by defeating the No. 2 ranked team, the Arizona Wildcats, to a score of 79-63. Head Coach Tad Boyle mentioned how there could not have been a better ending to this fairytale story for the seniors on his crew.
“They’re a legit top five team in the country,” Boyle said. “Kudos to our guys. On senior night, it’s harder to write a script that is better than this. Without a doubt. Evan Battey, Elijah Parquet who unfortunately couldn’t be out there with us, and Will and Ben our two walk-ons. Colorado basketball, this is a step in the right direction for us.”
It was a hard-fought battle in Julian Hammond III’s first start, as neither team had a double-digit lead until halfway through the second half. He finished the day with seven points, one rebound, one assists, one block, and one steal. In the press conference interview after the game, Hammond III explained how it felt for this memorable game to be his first career start.
“It felt good obviously,” Hammond III said. “You don’t beat the number two team in the country every day. Once I settled in and got more comfortable, I felt better.”
This final game at the CU Events Center for seniors Battey, Parquet, Will Loughlin, and Benan Ersek was everything the players could have asked for: a double-digit win against one of the best teams in the country. As raging Colorado fans swarmed the court after the win, the fan-favorite Battey performed a speech in front of the supporters who had been chanting his name all game and all season long.
“Over the years, you start wondering if you’re doing everything right,” said Battey to the entire crowd. “You get lost in the grind, but tonight I know we did something right. I know it.”
He also acknowledged a chance of possibly returning to Boulder, but not as a player.
“I’ll come back,” Battey said. “I will, someday as a coach. My dream is to be the head coach here. I’m going to achieve that dream someday, sometime. I don’t know when but I’ll do it.”
Battey, sophomore forward Jabari Walker, sophomore forward Tristan da Silva, and freshman guard K.J. Simpson had played the most minutes out of the Buffs, as they were the regular group on the floor for Colorado. After Hammond III had made his start, it seemed like Boyle was rotating Hammond, sophomore guard Nique Clifford, sophomore guard Luke O’Brien and sophomore guard Keeshawn Barthelemy in one of the guard positions. Da Silva discussed what had changed after the loss to Arizona State last Thursday.
“I guess mentality,” da Silva said. “We watched a lot of film after Thursday night. It was a bit frustrating because we had such a good run before Arizona State, but then they come into our house and out-rebound us, out-tough us, all that. Coach was really big on that, being tough out there so I guess that was the main thing that changed today.”
Arizona is known for being one of the best rebounding teams in college basketball this season, yet the Buffs managed to out rebound them 35 to 33. Both Wildcat centers were over seven feet tall, which forced Walker and Battey to switch off covering the two Arizona giants. The size difference could be to blame for how officiating had played a large role, as the referees called 39 total fouls, 17 of them being called in just the first half. Walker noted how he likes to mimic his opponents play and use their own techniques against them in order to better his game.
“Their bigs (forwards) get a lot of points from rim-running,” Walker said. “I learned that from them when we played at Arizona. I tried to take that as a skill-set, learn from my opponent, and apply it to my game. Just hurrying up, getting the ball out, and running puts a lot of pressure on the defense, so today I was more prepared with that. I was back in transition after every shot went up, I was trying to get to the bigs, locate, move my feet, trying to swivel and make everything harder for them. Trying to force them to the shoulder that they don’t like shooting over, and everything else we talked about in the scouting report.”
The Colorado Buffaloes will wait for the outcomes of other inter-conference games in order to find out what seed they will receive for the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, NV that begins on March ninth.
Contact CU Independent Managing Editor Brett Polley at email@example.com.