Buffs Fall To Florida State In NCAA Second Round
INDIANAPOLIS — Colorado struggled on the offensive end Monday and the Buffaloes fell short in their bid for a Sweet 16 appearance, dropping a 71-53 decision to Florida State in the NCAA Tournament second round.
The game was played in the shadow of a horrific deadly mass shooting in Boulder just hours before tipoff.
The fifth-seeded Buffs finished their season at 23-9 — tied for the third-most wins in program history — while No. 4 FSU improved to 18-6 and earned a Sweet 16 matchup with Michigan.
D'Shawn Schwartz led the Buffs with 13 points, Evan Battey added 11 and McKinley Wright IV scored 10.
Anthony Polite led Florida State with 22 points.
The Buffs couldn't repeat their blistering shooting effort in their first-round win over Georgetown. CU shot just 36 percent from the floor against FSU, including 6-for-25 from 3-point range, and also committed 19 turnovers.
CU trailed by four at the half, 24-20, and managed to shave the deficit to one eight minutes into the second half. But that was as close as Colorado could come, as the Seminoles slowly rebuilt their cushion and finally pushed it to double digits down the stretch.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle said the team learned of the events in Boulder before the game, but did not have any details of the tragedy that occurred at a grocery store frequented by CU students, including members of the Buffs basketball team.
"I thought about this in the locker room before the game … it puts basketball in its proper place," a somber Boyle said in his opening statement. "And win or lose tonight, I just felt an emptiness in my stomach. Another senseless act of violence that we've experienced as a country, many, many times. And so it puts this game in perspective. It certainly puts losing in perspective … My heart goes out to the families that were affected and those that lost their lives."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado struggled to establish anything resembling offensive rhythm in the first half. The Buffs committed 11 turnovers, shot just 9-for-29 from the floor and trailed, 24-20, at the half.
The 20 points was the fewest in a half this season for CU.
CU actually led, 11-9, at the 11:27 mark of the period after a 6-0 run on baskets from Tristan da Silva, Maddox Daniels and Wright. But Colorado then went on a 7-minute scoring drought, thanks to seven turnovers in the stretch against a tenacious Seminoles defense, and FSU built a 20-13 edge with just more than two minutes left in the half.
"You can simulate certain things in preparing for Florida State, but you cannot simulate their length," Boyle said. "We knew they were going to pressure us. I did a bad job preparing our team for the pressure that was coming. We've faced pressure before, and we've faced switching defenses before and we've handled it better before … This loss is on me. I don't blame the players one bit. Their coach didn't do a very good job tonight."
The Buffs, though, did come back to score seven points in the final two minutes of the half. Daniels hit a 3-pointer, Schwartz scored on a drive and Wright tipped in a Schwartz miss just before the buzzer to pull Colorado to within four, 24-20, at intermission.
While the Buffs struggled on the offensive end in the first half, they stayed within range by playing solid defense and commanding the boards. Colorado held FSU to 9-22 shooting and held a 21-13 rebound edge.
"The message at halftime was, guys, we've turned it over 11 times, we're shooting 30-some percent and we're only down four," Boyle said. "We're right here."
Early in the second half, the Buffs managed to narrow FSU's lead to just one. Battey scored CU's first five points of the half before heading to the bench with his third foul, and when Wright quickly followed with his third foul, backup Keeshawn Barthelemy came in and scored seven points.
With 11:51 to play, a Schwartz 3-pointer cut Florida State's lead to 36-35.
But that was as close as the Buffs could come, as the Seminoles slowly rebuilt their lead. CU pulled to within six, 47-41, on another Schwartz trey at the 7:36 mark, but the Seminoles then ran off an 8-0 run to take command for good.
The run came on two Seminoles 3-pointers and two free throws, one after a technical foul on Boyle.
Florida State then extended the margin to 16 with just under four minutes to play and Colorado never threatened again.
"They sped us up," said Wright, who wrapped up his career with an uncharacteristic five turnovers and just one assist. "They did a good job of denying and pressuring us. Their game plan was to take me out of the game and keep two on me anytime we inbounded the ball and make somebody else bring it up. We just didn't find a way to slow down tonight, and they executed really well on the defensive end, especially in the second half."
TURNING POINT: After Colorado took an 11-9 lead nine minutes into the game, the Seminoles put together a 6-0 run while CU went scoreless for seven minutes. FSU never trailed again.
WHAT IT MEANS: While the Buffs didn't advance to the Sweet 16, they still became only the third CU squad since 1963 to win a first round game, joining the 1997 and 2012 teams.
KEY STATISTICS: The Buffs shot just 36 percent from the floor (20-for-56), including a 6-for-25 night from 3-point range … FSU forced 19 Colorado turnovers and converted them into 17 points … CU's bench also scored just 17 points, including a third-straight sub-par game from Jeriah Horne, who endured a 1-for-9 game.
QUOTEWORTHY: "Basketball is just a part of our society, and sports are just a small part of our society. As our players go through their lives, they are going to understand that. Right now in that locker room, maybe they don't have that perspective. We just lost. The season we had was such a special season with such special young men in that locker room. Seven unbelievable seniors, the most connected and one of the closest groups I've ever coached. We'll get through this and get through it together. But right now my heart goes out to the Boulder community and more than just our basketball team. So the perspective that this will bring to their lives is something that we're going to have to talk about as we process this and we move through it over the coming days." Colorado coach Tad Boyle
SEASON WRAP: The Buffs ended their season with a 23-9 record, tied for the third-most wins in program history.