Buffs Rally, Top Montana State In OT
BOULDER — Colorado coach Tad Boyle knew his young Buffaloes would endure some growing pains this season.
But his Buffs barely escaped a very painful season opener Tuesday, overcoming a 13-point second-half deficit to force overtime, then outscoring Montana State 14-10 in the extra period for a 94-90 victory at the CU Events Center.
Keeshawn Barthelemy led five Buffs in double figures with 19 points. Elijah Parquet added 17 and Evan Battey, despite playing with foul trouble for much of the game, finished with 16 points. Jabari Walker chipped in 14 and Nique Clifford scored 11 off the bench. Clifford just missed a double-double, finishing with nine rebounds, and Walker had eight boards.
Abdul Mohamed and Jubile Belo each had 16 points for MSU.
Colorado built a seven-point lead early in the game, but foul trouble, turnovers and some defensive lapses allowed the Bobcats to take a 38-35 lead into intermission.
CU's troubles continued early in the second half, as Montana State built a 13-point lead, 51-38. But CU slowly chipped away at the lead and went ahead with just under three minutes to play before Montana State regained a five-point advantage with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
But Battey hit two free throws, MSU missed the front end of a one-and-one and Parquet hit maybe the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer off an assist from Walker to tie the game at 80-80 and send it to overtime.
CU scored the first five points of the extra period, with Battey tallying the first bucket and Parquet adding a free throw and basket to put Colorado in control for good.
"Hard-fought win," said a drained Boyle. "I knew it coming in, Montanta State is a good basketball team, a veteran team. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I'm really proud of our players and the fight they showed … We weren't great, it was kind of an ugly win. But they showed a lot of grit down the stretch defensively. A great, hard-fought win against a really good team. I've got a lot of respect for their players and their coaching staff."
HOW IT HAPPENED: The Buffs started strong, hitting their first six field goal tries, including four 3-pointers, to take a 20-13 lead nine minutes in.
But from that point on, things went south. Montana State slowly chipped away at the lead as the Buffs committed some critical turnovers and also ran into foul trouble inside. Battey played just six minutes in the first half after two early fouls, and freshman big man Lawson Lovering was whistled for his second soon thereafter.
That opened up the paint for the Bobcats and they took advantage. MSU finally tied the game at 33-33 late in the first half on a RaeQuan Battle dunk, then took the lead with 37 seconds left in the half on another dunk. CU momentarily tied the game at 35-35, but Battle hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer on an inbounds play and the Buffs trailed by three at intermission, 38-35.
CU's woes continued in the opening minutes of the second half. Battey drew his third foul early in the period and Lovering was whistled for his fourth and fifth soon thereafter. That opened the door for an 11-1 MSU run and Colorado trailed by 13 points, 51-38, less than four minutes into the half.
But the Buffs' defense finally started to kick in. Colorado managed to cut the deficit back to single digits at several junctures over the next eight minutes, then put together an 11-2 run to close the deficit to one, 70-69, with just more than five minutes to play.
"We had to lock in defensively," said Parquet, who played 41 minutes. "We couldn't keep trading baskets or this game was going to get out of hand so we had to get stops in the end so we just locked in."
Tristan da Silva started the 11-2 run with a bucket inside before Walker scored on a drive. Clifford then hit two free throws and Barthelemy hit a layup to cut MSU's lead to 68-66.
MSU temporarily stopped the run with a Belo bucket, but Walker added a three-point play with 5:05 to go to pull CU within one, 70-69.
The Bobcats then hit a 3-pointer to extend their lead to four, but Colorado came back again and finally took the lead.
Battey hit a jumper at the 4:25 mark to pull CU within two before Walker had a nice assist to Clifford, who cashed in a dunk to tie the game at 73-73. Parquet then hit two free throws with just under three to play and Colorado had a 75-73 lead.
But the Bobcats responded with five straight points to go up 78-75 with 1:44 to play, then pushed their lead to five with 53 seconds remaining, 80-75.
The Buffs, though, had one more rally in their pocket. Battey hit two free throws to cut the deficit to three before MSU's Xavier Bishop missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity. Parquet then drained a 3-pointer off a great assist from Walker to tie the game at 80-80 with 18 seconds remaining.
Walker's drive and dish to Parquet wasn't planned. Boyle had instructed his team to get a good look early, but said he would have settled for a 2-pointer.
"We just needed to get a great shot," Boyle said. "That possession was kind of like a broken play if you will. Jabari made a really heads-up play on the drive kicking it out. At that point there wasn't a lot of time and that was a really astute play on his part. I say this all the time, players make plays at the end of the games. Jabari made a great penetrating kick. Obviously, Eli relocated, was shot ready and knocked the shot down."
MSU called a timeout with 10 seconds remaining on the ensuing possession, but turned the ball over under the basket to send the game into overtime.
Battey finally gave the Buffs the lead for good early in the overtime period, scoring inside after an offensive rebound by Barthelemy. Parquet hit one of two free throws before he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored after an MSU miss, giving CU an 85-80 lead with 2:30 to play.
Battey played just six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, and played much of the second half with four fouls. He was also coming off an 0-for-10 effort from the field in last week's exhibition loss to Nebraska.
But the fifth-year veteran put his experience to use Tuesday.
"I've seen a lot happen, I've seen a lot of games," he said. "So for me it's about keeping my head and composure. Never get too high or too low and just get ready to make an impact."
Colorado then pushed its lead to 91-82 in the final minute of overtime before MSU made a late push with five straight points. But Barthelemy hit two free throws with 13 seconds remaining to give CU a 93-87 lead and Parquet hit one more free throw after an MSU 3-pointer to wrap up the 94-90 win.
TURNING POINT: CU's 11-1 run midway through the second half helped the Buffs regain the lead and make it anyone's ballgame. While MSU did come back and take a five-point edge, Colorado's five-point surge in the final minute of regulation turned the game in the Buffs' favor for good. CU then scored the first five points of overtime and remained in control the rest of the way.
WHAT IT MEANS: As Boyle said, the Buffs displayed plenty of grit and resiliency. It was a nice win for a young team in its opening game, and should no doubt give them a shot of confidence the next time adversity hits.
KEY STATISTICS: CU shot just eight free throws in the first half, but shot 29 after intermission and finished 27-for-37 from the line … The Buffs had five players in double figures … CU had 16 turnovers and MSU just 14, but the Buffs converted those 14 Bobcat turnovers into 23 points … CU had a 38-29 rebounding edge.
NEXT UP: The Buffs play host to New Mexico on Saturday in a 4:30 p.m. game at the CU Events Center (Pac-12 Networks).