Men: Colorado 53, Arizona 51
By Michelle Smith
LOS ANGELES - Welcome to the Pac-12, Colorado.
The Buffaloes stormed the court at Staples Center after Arizona guard Kyle Fogg's last shot fell short of the rim, celebrating the Pacific Life Pac-12 Tournament championship in their first year in the conference.
It was a gutty, gritty performance by Colorado (23-11) to earn the automatic NCAA bid. The Buffaloes, buoyed by a large group of student supporters who flew in from Boulder for the tournament, grinded out four games in four days and became the first Pac-12 Conference tournament champion to do it.
Arizona (23-11) cut the lead to 53-51 with 21 seconds to play, but as they had done all tournament, the Buffaloes defended their way to a win, making sure the Wildcats could not get off a clean shot on the game's final possession.
Colorado won a conference tournament for the first time since winning the Big Eight tournament championship in 1990 and will be in the NCAA field for the first time since 2003.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle said his team was inspired by being left out of the NCAA field last year.
"It wasn't easy, but we talked about it before this game. If you believe in destiny, you believe in the Colorado Buffaloes," Boyle said. "What these guys have done in these last four games is what college basketball is all about. I'm just so proud of these guys."
Arizona was making its seventh appearance in the title game, and the second in a row. Wildcats coach Sean Miller, whose team has lost the last two title games by a combined four points, said it was a "difficult" loss for his team as it likely costs them a chance at the NCAA Tournament.
"Whoever draws Colorado is running into a hungry, well-coached, disciplined team," Miller said. "They beat us. They were a better team."
It was a battle befitting the league's two best defensive teams, the lowest-scoring tournament championship game in Pac-12 history. And the Buffaloes stifled Arizona's senior-laden lineup and led most of the way, building as much as a 12-point lead in the second half.
"That was a very big stretch, guys were being aggressive, guys were making plays," said Carlon Brown, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. "We just really wanted this and we weren't going to be denied."
The Buffaloes dominated the boards by a 37-29 margin and went into halftime with a 30-28 lead. But Colorado went on a 14-3 run early in the half to grab a double-digit lead and all that was left was hanging on as Arizona pulled within two points in the final 21 seconds.
"Give Colorado a lot of credit, that first 10 minutes of the second half, they were so much better a team," Miller said. We dug ourselves a hole and that was the difference in the game."
Freshman Spencer Dinwiddie led Colorado with 14 points, Brown added 13 including the game's biggest play, a thunderous dunk with 50 seconds to play to push CU's lead out to 53-47.
Andre Roberson set the tournament record for most rebounds with 41.
Arizona got a combined 38 points from its senior trio of Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry. The Wildcats struggled offensively, shooting 36.7 percent for the game and 10 of 18 from the free-throw line.
"I thought it was an even game, but we have to make free throws," said Miller. "We knew if we didn't turn that around, we were playing with danger."
Most Outstanding Player
Carlon Brown, Colorado
Carlon Brown, Colorado
Jared Cunningham, Oregon State (2nd time, 2011)
Kyle Fogg, Arizona
Solomon Hill, Arizona
Jesse Perry, Arizona
Andre Roberson, Colorado
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