The energy was high at the CU Events Center on Thursday night as the Buffs faced off against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first Pac-12 matchup of the season. Unfortunately, the Buffs fell to the Sun Devils (7-1 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) leaving the Buffs with a 4-4 record with no back-to-back losses or wins this season.
“This one stings,” said head coach Ted Boyle. “This is easily one of the top five losses in the 13 years I’ve been at Colorado. We let our fans down. I let them down. The players let them down…we wilted to their pressure. As a coach that’s really hard to deal with. I have to do a better job.”
After a 12-day, three-state and five-game hiatus, the Buffs were home and fans showed out. A sold-out student section and over 6,000 in attendance was just the support the Buffs had been missing the last five games. Entering warm-ups, Colorado carried themselves confidently and were pinpoint-focused up until game time.
The contest’s first half was exceptional for the Buffs who put up consecutive 3-pointers. Colorado and Arizona State took turns exchanging points back and forth until the Buffs were able to take control and start their longest-scoring run of the game. Colorado’s scoring run had eight points and put the Buffs above the Sun Devils by six points 14-8. From that point on the Buffs found their rhythm scoring a majority of their points outside the paint and holding the lead for the remaining 16 minutes in the half. Colorado had one more seven-point scoring run and retaliated against any attempt Arizona State had made offensively.
Headed into the half the Buffs had a secure 15-point lead.
Arizona State had returned to the court four minutes prior to tip-off, practicing free throws and shots outside the paint. Whatever had happened the 10 minutes prior, the Sun Devil’s switch had flipped and they hadn’t come to mess around.
Following the half, the first four minutes of the second half were ugly. Arizona State hit the ground running scoring 17 points in comparison to the Buffs’ 10. The once 15-point lead quickly diminished to six points. Colorado felt the pressure, forcing Boyle to call a timeout.
“We gotta win the first four minutes, we gotta win the half. It starts with the first four minutes,” said Boyle. “Did we win the first four minutes? No. Did we win the second half? No. ”
Instead of a flame, Colorado had mere embers lit under them in an attempt to regain control. The Buffs secured five points unanswered to which Arizona State called a timeout. The score was 53-42 with the Sun Devils closing in.
Defensively, Arizona State looked like a new team. The Sun Devils were forcing turnovers which they capitalized off of. Not only were there numerous turnovers but Colorado struggled to get within the arc for any scoring opportunities.
After the timeout, the Buffs were putting up points but Arizona State would retaliate twice as hard. The final four minutes proved to be the most vital in the game. Arizona State secured a one-point lead, 57-56, bringing it to the wire.
In a once detrimental play, the Sun Devils received a foul allowing graduate guard Jalen Gabbidon three free throws. Gabbidon sunk all three, putting the Buffs in the lead at 59-57.
Arizona State had possession and all the Buffs had to do was play smart defensively. In the final ten seconds, the Sun Devils scored three points in a jump shot throttling them to 60-59. Between two timeouts from both teams, three seconds remained on the clock. Colorado’s efforts to make a game-winning shot were not enough.
“I just kind of put it on myself a little bit, because as a point guard, especially a leader, I have to control everything,” said KJ Simpson. “I’ve got to make sure the game doesn’t get out of hand, and I let myself turn the ball over too much. Our offense was too wild. We had to do a better job of playing our game, and I think we just got caught up in trying to play too fast because they were pressuring us.”
Although sophomore guard KJ Simpson led the team with thirteen points, he had five turnovers. There were numerous factors at play when considering the Buffs’ downfall. Colorado had given the Sun Devils 22 points from turnovers with a majority coming from the second half.
“I thought we lost this game right out of the chute in the second half,” said Boyle. “Our guys that were starting that second half where not ready to play. [It was a] Disappointing loss.”
Not only was the turnover rate high but the Buffs had eight missed free throws, which proved essential. Arizona State also had two of its top players out due to sickness and suspension.
“We played well enough to win tonight,” said Boyle. “We got stops down the stretch…but we didn’t make free throws and we didn’t get that last stop. It’s the same team, it’s the same inconsistencies and it’s the same problems. I have to figure out a way to do a better job.”
Colorado will be back on the road to play their second conference game of the season on Dec. 4 at Washington. The game can be streamed via Pac-12 Networks at 1 p.m.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Malaina Humphreys at firstname.lastname@example.org.