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Defense Stellar As Buffs Conclude Paradise Jam With A 'W'

Nov 22, 2021
Jabari Walker

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands - Colorado's defense shined when the shots weren't falling as the Buffaloes squeaked out a 54-52 win over Brown in the final game of the Paradise Jam at the University of Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center on Monday.

Evan Battey had a game-high 16 points as the Buffaloes improved to 5-1 overall, officially placing fourth in the tournament with a 2-1 record. Jabari Walker had his second-straight double-double finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Brown, 4-3 overall and sixth place in the Paradise Jam (1-2), was led by 14 points from Paxson Wojcik.

Colorado shot 40 percent for the game, but only 27 percent in the first half. Battey, who entered the game shooting nearly 70 percent, made just six of his 15 attempts.

The key was the Buffaloes didn't allow Brown to get going either and kept them close enough to clamp down at the end. The Bears shot just 30.2 percent for the game (16 of 53) and 17 percent from 3-point range.

Both teams struggled offensively for large portions of the game. After Wojick scored a bucket with 15:00 left in the half to give Brown a 9-5 lead, seven-plus minutes went off the clock before either team made a field goal again.

Cold shooting was one culprit, but the half was also a foul fest. Twenty-two fouls were called in the first 20 minutes, 13 of them on the Buffaloes.

Brown was 13 of 19 from the line in the first half – eclipsing their averages in both categories through its first six games.

Colorado was at least able to keep pace at the line. The Buffaloes shot five fewer free throws, but made 12 of them.

The plethora of fouls did cause the Buffaloes some early concern. All-Pac-12 defender Elijah Parquet picked up two in the first four minutes of the game, and a third early in the second half. Walker picked up his second with six minutes still to play. Five Buffaloes had at least three fouls midway through the second half.

But the Bears only shot four free throws in the second half as the Colorado defense played much better – only Parquet picked up a fourth foul with that coming  in the closing seconds.

"We knew that Brown was going to put their heads down and drive it; they're a physical team," Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. "They rely on getting to the foul line and we have to play without fouling. They had 19 shots in the first half and we were only down by six. We did a much better job in the second half not fouling."

Colorado trailed 37-30 with 14:30 remaining in the game before the Buffaloes went on a 9-0 run to take its first lead since the opening minutes. K.J. Simpson converted a 3-point play and Trista da Silva scored consecutive layups to tie the game at 37-37.

On the defensive side, the Buffaloes really clamped down, generating five straight stops. During the 9-0 run the Buffaloes forced a Brown shot clock violation and a couple other tough shots late in the shot clock.

Keeshawn Barthelemy finally put the Buffaloes back on top, 39-37, scoring on a layup in transition.

The game stayed within one possession from there and the lead changed eight times in the final 10 minutes. Battey, who was 3 of 9 in the first half scored six points down the stretch, including a bucket with 1:05 left that gave the Buffaloes the lead for good at 51-50.

After a Brown timeout, Walker forced Dan Friday to lose the inbounds pass out of bounds with 55 seconds left. Following a CU timeout, Barthelemy extended the Buffaloes lead to 53-50 with jumper at the top of the key with 32 seconds remaining.

Once again, Colorado forced Brown to work the whole shot clock, but Wojcik was fouled by Parquet with 2.8 seconds left underneath the basket. Wojcik made both free throws to cut the CU lead to 53-52. Barthelemy was immediately fouled, made the first of two for the final margin. Brown got the rebound off the second free throw but a desperation three-quarter court heave was way off.

"Defensively, we took a step in the right direction," Boyle said. "Our offense was anemic – and we got good looks. Our post guys didn't finish well around the rim and on the blocks. We had some really good looks from 3 and they didn't go in (Buffs were 1 for 9). But we found a way (to win)."

Brown built an eight-point lead in the first half, leading 22-14 with 4:10 left in the half. The Buffaloes quickly cut that lead in half. Simpson made a pair of free throws and then Battey scored on a layup off a nice feed from Simpson.

Battey scored six points down the first half stretch and the Buffaloes cut the lead to 25-22 with a minute left. Brown's Kino Lilly, Jr., hit the first 3-pointer of the game by either team to put the Bears back up 28-22. After an offensive foul on Luke O'Brien, David Mitchell got a layup in traffic to extend Brown's lead to eight at 30-22. Barthelemy drew a foul and sank a pair of free throws as the Buffaloes went into halftime down by six at 30-24.

Along with holding Brown's shooting percentage down, the Buffaloes enjoyed a plus-9 advantage on the board. Sophomore Nique Clifford grabbed a career-high nine rebounds – all on the defensive end. Colorado is 74-5 in the Boyle era when holding opponents under 40 percent shooting and have at least a plus-8 advantage in rebounding.

Colorado opens Pac-12 Conference play on Sunday, Nov. 28, against Stanford at 5 p.m. at the CU Events Center.