Tigers' Pressure, Buffs' Early Turnovers Prove Costly
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Failing to cope with Missouri's early pressure and committing a season-worst 15 first-half turnovers proved disastrous here Saturday for Colorado. The Tigers methodically disposed of the Buffaloes, 89-73, avenging what they considered an upset last month in Boulder.
Part of MU Coach Mike Anderson's explanation for opening Big 12 Conference play with an 89-76 loss at CU was very simple: "They wanted it more than we did. That's the bottom line - they wanted it more."
The Buffs should have been pretty certain Saturday of one thing: Anderson's team wouldn't be caught lacking in that department again - and they weren't.
After falling behind 4-0, the Tigers roared to a 16-point halftime lead, increased it to 22 early in the second half, then never allowed the Buffs closer than 13 points in the final 10 minutes.
CU fell to 4-5 in Big 12 play and 15-9 overall, losing for the 13th time in 15 trips here as members of the Big 12. The Buffs closed out their final Big 12 regular-season series with a 10-20 record against the No. 14/15 Tigers (18-5, 4-4).
Although they cut their turnover total almost in half in the last 20 minutes, the Buffs still finished with a season-high 23 - and Coach Tad Boyle called turnovers "the name of the game . . . we didn't play with enough composure on offense; they took us out of what we wanted to do, and that wasn't the case when we played them a month ago."
Still, Boyle said his team "battled, but we just didn't play well enough to win . . . our effort was good, our execution wasn't good enough. We're capable of playing better than we did tonight but we lost to a good team. As a coach you're always looking at your team and what you didn't do, but sometimes you have to say, 'That team played well.' They're ranked in the top 20."
CU had four players in double figures, led by Alec Burks' 21. But that total was 15 below his career-best output in the Buffs' win against the Tigers in Boulder. Burks hit just five of his 15 field goal attempts here Saturday.
Cory Higgins, who set a school record with his 117th career start, scored 14 points for CU. Marcus Relphorde contributed a double-double - 13 points, 12 rebounds - and Austin Dufault added 10 points.
Burks, Higgins and Relphorde - CU's top three scorers - combined to shoot just 15-of-42 from the field. CU outrebounded Mizzou 45-32, with 19 of the boards on the offensive end. But the Buffs' turnover total diminished their rebounding edge.
Coming off a 76-70 loss on Wednesday at Oklahoma State, the Tigers surged mid-way through the first half and opened an 18-point lead a minute before intermission.
At halftime, it was MU 47, CU 31 - the Buffs' largest first-half deficit of the season. The Buffs paid dearly for not handling the Tigers' pressure, with Mizzou converting CU's 15 turnovers into 20 first-half points.
Compounding the Buffs' problems, they tied a season-high for first-half fouls (12) and the Tigers' bench outscored them 19-7 - 36-15 for the game. MU shot 50 percent from the field (16-of-32) in the first 20 minutes, while CU checked in at 41 percent (11-of-27) and finished with that percentage.
The second half didn't smooth out for CU. Marcus Denmon opened Mizzou's scoring with a three-pointer, pushing the Buffs behind 19. The Tigers continued to build on that margin, going ahead by as many as 22, until the Buffs closed to 57-47 on a Levi Knutson tip-in with just over 12 minutes to play.
"We cut it to 10, but just couldn't get over the hump," Boyle said. "We have to make plays when people give us the opportunity. But we turned it over and made bad decisions."
The Buffs maintained a 10-point deficit for two possessions until Michael Dixon keyed a mini-run with a pair of treys and pushed the Tigers back in front by 16 (67-51) with about 10 minutes left.
CU came only as close as 13 points (84-71) on a conventional three-point play by Burks in the final 1:24.
The Buffs found themselves down a starter for much of the game when point guard Nate Tomlinson suffered a twisted ankle. Also, they lost forward Andre Roberson with five fouls with 4:34 to play. He went to the bench with four points and seven rebounds.
"He never got in the flow . . . he was frustrated," Boyle said of Roberson, adding that Tomlinson's status was unknown immediately after the game. "He twisted it pretty good."
CU returns to the Coors Events Center this week for a pair of games. No. 16/16 Texas A&M visits on Wednesday (7 p.m.), while Kansas State comes in Saturday (7 p.m.) for the second game of a men's-women's doubleheader. The first game matches CU and Texas Tech (4 p.m.).