Buffs Fall To Oregon State In Pac-12 Title Game
LAS VEGAS — Colorado's bid for a Pac-12 tournament title came up heartbreakingly short Saturday, as the Buffaloes dropped a 70-68 decision to Oregon State at T-Mobile Arena.
Colorado saw its six-game win streak come to an end and fell to 22-8 on the season. OSU improved to 17-12 and earned the Pac-12's automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
The Buffs are still considered to be a lock for an NCAA at-large berth. They will now wait for Sunday's bracket announcement to find out where they will be seeded, then head to Indianapolis if they do hear their names called.
McKinley Wright IV led Colorado with 18 points and seven assists, and also had six rebounds. Evan Battey added 16 points and eight rebounds and D'Shawn Schwartz chipped in 11 points.
Maurice Calloo had 15 points for the Beavers and Ethan Thompson added 14.
The Buffaloes trailed for most of the game but stayed within striking range down the stretch, closing to within three with two minutes still to play. Oregon State, however, hit key buckets and free throws in the final minutes for the win while the Buffs missed two free throws in the final 45 seconds.
The Buffs hurt themselves all night at the free throw line. The nation's leading free throw shooting team endured its worst night of the year from the stripe, hitting just 12 of 20 attempts. \CU also gave up nine Oregon State 3-pointers, nearly matching the total (10) that OSU had against Colorado in their two previous matchups this season.
"I'm extremely disappointed and heartbroken for our players," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "We came here to win a championship and we came up short. Credit to Oregon State. They deserved to win this game. They played better than we did tonight. We just weren't good enough. We didn't make enough shots on offense and then we didn't rebound the ball the way we're capable and we needed to rebound the ball, especially defensively. I just thought they were the tougher team tonight."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado trailed at the half, 33-28, after the Beavers hit six of 10 3-point tries in the first period while the Buffs were 0-for-4 from long range.
"The key defensive part of our game plan tonight was guard the 3-point line," Boyle said. "We did not execute. I've complimented this team and this group of guys when they have executed the defensive game plan. Tonight we didn't and it cost us the game because guarding the three-point line was the key and it was a difference in the game."
But CU momentarily took the lead early in the second half when a 3-pointer from Schwartz and three-point plays from Wright and Battey gave Colorado a 37-36 edge with 17:29 remaining.
The Beavers, though, then took advantage of a string of Colorado turnovers to put together a 13-4 run and regain control, taking a 49-41 lead with 11 minutes left on the clock. The Buffs committed three turnovers in the stretch while OSU scored on six of eight possessions.
"I thought sometimes we played tonight like we wanted it too much, rather than just playing our game," Boyle said. "We just didn't play well enough when the lights came on and that's disappointing because I know we're better than what we played tonight."
CU, though, slowly chipped away at the deficit and pulled to within two, 59-57, with just 5:31 to play. The Buffs got 3-pointers from Maddox Daniels, Jabari Walker and Schwartz in the surge, along with three points and three assists from Wright.
But the Beavers answered again to push their cushion back to seven. Colorado couldn't get the rebound following an OSU missed free throw and Jarod Lucas cashed in a long 3-pointer to give Oregon State a 64-57 lead with 4:38 to play.
"That was the play of the game," Boyle said. "It's a four-point game, they miss the free throw, we can't get the rebound. It's my pet peeve as a coach giving up offensive rebounds on free throws and it's amazing how the basketball gods make you pay for that. They made us pay."
Still, Colorado again managed to pull within three after a free throw and 3-pointer from Schwartz cut the deficit to 64-61 with 2:20 to play. Meanwhile, CU's defense held OSU scoreless for more than three minutes.
But the Beavers finally ended their drought with just more than a minute to play on a Warith Alatishe drive while the Buffs missed two of four free throw tries in the ensuing 30 seconds.
Lucas then hit two free throws for OSU to give the Beavers a five-point lead, 68-63, with 16 seconds remaining. Wright connected on a 3-pointer and two free throws in the final seconds, but OSU added one more free throw with 2.2 on the clock to close the scoring, as a last-gasp shot by Colorado was off target at the buzzer.
Now, the Buffs must turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament.
"We have to get over the disappointment," Boyle said. "And it's real in that locker room. These guys really wanted this ... So we have to move on. If we can derive some motivation from it, we'll certainly try, but it's a whole new ball game when we go to Indy."
TURNING POINT: After Colorado took a one-point lead early in the second half, the Beavers responded with a 13-4 run to regain control and the Buffs never completely closed the gap again.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs just missed their chance at only the second conference tournament title in program history. Still, they will have a chance to redeem themselves when the NCAA Tournament opens next week.
KEY STATISTICS: Colorado shot 12-of-20 from the free throw line. The eight missed free throws were the most by the Buffs in any game this year and the 60 percent was their lowest percentage of the year … The Buffs allowed nine OSU 3-pointers while shooting just 6-for-19 on their end … OSU had a 14-7 edge in points off turnovers.
QUOTEWORTHY: "We have another opportunity next week, and we have to take advantage of that. It's a new life, new tournament, new ball game, new season." — CU coach Tad Boyle
NEXT UP: The Buffs will head to Indianapolis on Sunday to begin preparation for the start of the NCAA Tournament. Bracket pairings will be announced Sunday at 4 p.m. on CBS.