Brooks: Huskies’ Last-Second Jumper Sinks Buffs 52-50

BOULDER – In a future Colorado men’s basketball season, coach Tad Boyle believes he will reflect on this winter as one of growth for his players and lessons learned the hard way. They probably won’t get much harder, more gut-wrenching, than Thursday night at the Coors Events Center.

Washington’s Andrew Andrews hit a last-second jumper over the outstretched hand of Wesley Gordon to beat CU 52-50, dealing the Buffaloes their fourth consecutive Pac-12 Conference loss. It was the Huskies’ first win in Boulder in 44 years, or since Dec. 6, 1971, and only the Buffs' second home loss this season (8-2).

“It’ll be good for us in the long run but in the short run it’s no fun,” said Boyle. “That was a heart breaker to say the least . . . I’m disappointed in the loss, but I’m really pleased with our effort and our fight.”

In terms of effort, the Buffs (9-9, 2-4) unquestionably left nothing on the Sox Walseth Court -- especially Gordon. He was superb in rebounding – he hauled down a career-best 17 – and defending Huskies 7-footer Robert Upshaw. Gordon also scored 10 points for his third double-double of the season.

Upshaw’s last two games had produced 25 points and 27 rebounds. But CU, with Gordon the load bearer, held him to four points and six rebounds.

“I just didn’t want to let him touch it, get easy looks,” Gordon said. “I tackled him offensively and stayed aggressive.”

Also the nation’s leading shot blocker at 4.5 a game, Upshaw swatted only one Thursday night. Yet his presence around the rim was enough to contribute to the Buffs being “tentative,” said Boyle, in attacking the Huskies’ 2-3 zone.

CU shot only 31.7 percent from the field (19-of-60) while UW was barely better at 36 percent (18-of-50). Boyle played six guards/wings, and their combined shooting from the field was 11-for-43.

“We didn’t take care of the ball well enough and obviously we didn’t shoot it well enough,” Boyle said. Of CU’s 12 turnovers, which Boyle called outlandishly high against a zone, none was more costly than Jaron Hopkins losing the ball to Andrews with the scored tied at 50-50 in the final minute.

“We drew up a play but I just turned it over,” said Hopkins, who scored a team-high 11 points and collected five of CU’s 40 rebounds (UW had 35). “It was a costly turnover at a big moment in the game and that pretty much lost it for us . . . we work on situations like that every day in practice. I just can’t turn it over right there.”

But he did and Andrews and the Huskies (14-4, 3-3) capitalized. Andrews, scoring his team’s first point and final two, finished with 12. Teammate Nigel Williams-Goss led all scorers with 16 points.

Once again, the Buffs were without starting post Josh Scott (back) and wing Xavier Johnson (one-game suspension). Including Thursday night, they have missed the last three games. Johnson could return Saturday against Washington State (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network) provided he has recovered from an ankle sprain. However, Scott’s return is more uncertain; he has missed five of the past six games.

The Buffs had a mandate from Boyle to toughen up on defense, and the game’s first 6:46 showed they had paid attention. After taking a 1-0 lead on one of two free throws by Andrews, the Huskies didn’t score their first field goal until the 13:14 mark on a layup by Williams-Goss.

But with Upshaw camped at the rim in a 2-3 zone, CU was having its own problems scoring. Finally getting untracked, UW took its first lead (10-9) on a 3-pointer by Donaven Dorsey.

Baskets and a one-point lead were traded until the Buffs strung together a 10-0 run bookended by treys from Eli Stalzer and Askia Booker, who finished with five points (2-of-13) and did not get to the free throw line. CU bolted ahead 21-12 and remained in front 24-19 at the half.

Neither team had a player in double figures at intermission, with four CU players having four points each and Williams-Goss scoring eight for UW. He kept up the pace in the early moments of the second half, scoring six of the Huskies’ first eight points.

They closed to 33-31 on a stuff by 6-9 Shawn Kemp Jr. with just under 16 minutes to play, then tied it at 33-33 on another Kemp layup after he had batted away a Booker shot in the lane and hustled to the hoop in transition.

When Kemp converted an and-one with 10:13 remaining, UW had its first second-half lead, 41-40. It increased to 46-42 – the Huskies’ largest lead of the night – after Andrews canned a 3-pointer in front of the UW bench with 8:23 left.

The Buffs needed a stop and a basket – and it took a while to get either. When the muscular Kemp added a put-back, the Huskies went up 48-42, but Hopkins responded by snaking through the UW zone for a layup and Dustin Thomas scored on an off-balance tip in.

But the Big Tip awaited.

After Booker launched a long jumper and missed, Gordon soared in front of Upshaw for a tip dunk that tied the score at 48-48 and sent the CEC crowd (9,653) into a frenzy, although it wouldn’t last.

The 6-9 Gordon wasn’t through working the glass; with just over 3 minutes to play he put back a Hopkins miss to push the Buffs up 50-48. UW’s Mike Anderson hit both ends of a one-and-one to tie the score at 50-50 with 2:16 to play, and CU found itself in a familiar scenario – in desperate need of an efficient crunch-time offense and the same sort of stop.

After both the Buffs and Huskies misfired, Tre’Shaun Fletcher controlled UW’s miss and CU called timeout with 42 seconds remaining and the scored tied. But Hopkins turned it over in front of the Buffs bench, giving the visitors 33 seconds to win it.

After the Huskies took consecutive timeouts with 28 seconds showing, Andrews’ jumper won it.

“We’re a little snake-bit right now,” Boyle said. “That’s four one-possession games we’ve been in this year and we’ve come up on the short end of the stick every time.

“We’ve got to learn and we’ve got to improve, and that’s what we’ve got to focus on . . . we’re being tested – our toughness is being tested, our mental fortitude is being tested.”

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU 

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