By Ken Cross
Colorado went 0-2 at the Oregons last week which may have been a slight cause for some anxiety in Boulder, but Thursday night the fate of the herd may have changed in an enormous way. They trailed Arizona State for 31:09, yet was able to get the game to overtime where the Buffaloes pulled out an inspiring 90-81 win.
“To say we needed that win is probably the understatement of the year,” said Colorado coach Tad Boyle, whose Buffaloes go to 10-5, overall, “What a resilient group we had. Our guys were a little bit down, felt like we should have finished a little stronger in regulation.”
The Buffaloes finally caught Arizona State with 8:27 remaining when a Tyler Bey layup gave them their first lead at 55-54. Then, McKinley Wright and Namon Wright hit timely triples. The key was that every time ASU scored, the Buffs had the answer as McKinley Wright put Colorado ahead 65-59 on a three-point shot with 4:54 to play.
In the overtime, George King and McKinley Wright scored back-to-back baskets to give Colorado a 79-74 lead a minute and a half into the overtime. It was important for Colorado to start quickly after Mikey Mitchell’s dunk to tie the game at the end of regulation apparently gave Arizona State some momentum.
“Tonight going from regulation to overtime is a great example, they were down but they didn’t stay down,” said Boyle of the team’s resilience, “We played down to start the game. Sustaining that effort, that competitiveness for forty minutes, it’s something the young guys haven’t had to do.”
Highlights from tonight's win over No.4 ASU! pic.twitter.com/Zz8o4EI7EM
— Colorado Basketball (@CUBuffsMBB) January 5, 2018
Boyle started three freshmen in point guard McKinley Wright and then forwards Tyler Bey and Dallas Walton. He knows that the team will take steps to go forward and be a competitor and tonight was an example. The Buffaloes were up against a Sun Devils team that has been arguably the headline of the season so far. In the clutch, they found key rebounds, made huge defensive stops, and were able to get to the 50-50 balls.
“We just kept guarding and trying to make everything tough,” said senior George King who is a steady leader who finished with 18 points, “Coach put in a little wrinkle defensively a few days ago and I think it rattled them going against something they hadn’t seen before.”
Colorado was resilient on the backboard with a 48-41 advantage while scoring 17 points off 11offensive rebounds. However, a huge key was the bench which outscored the Sun Devils, 38-12. Colorado had nine players who logged double figures in minutes and then King, Namon and McKinley Wright were over 30 minutes. Boyle harkened back to practice on Wednesday where he saw a definition of this team’s depth, coupled with the potential.
“In the scrimmage, the gold team actually beat the black team like a drum and I thought that maybe I’m starting the wrong guys,” explained Boyle, “Then the next competition, the two zone competition, the black team beats the gold team. I stopped it and was like, ‘guys look at what happened the last 25 minutes’ and you think ‘who do you play?’.
The Buffaloes ride the momentum of this win into Saturday’s home matchup with Arizona