Buffs Survive Eastern Washington Upset Bid, Collect Home Win
BOULDER — Colorado allowed a 15-point first-half lead to become a four-point deficit late in the game Wednesday, but the Buffaloes rallied in the final minutes to take a 60-57 win over Eastern Washington at the CU Events Center.
Tad Boyle's Buffs improved to 7-3 while the Eagles fell to 4-5.
Jabari Walker led CU with 17 points and 10 rebounds, his fifth double-double in the last six games and sixth of the season. Keeshawn Barthelemy had nine points for CU — all in the first half — and Evan Battey also had nine, all in the second half.
Steele Venters led Eastern Washington with 23 points.
CU built a 15-point cushion, 33-18, with six minutes to go in the first half, but the Eagles managed to narrow the lead to eight, 39-31, by halftime. EWU then slowly but steadily chipped away at CU's lead in the second half and finally took the lead with just more than five minutes remaining.
The Buffs, though, collected themselves down the stretch and came up with just enough defensive stops and some big buckets from Battey and Walker in the final minutes to salvage the win.
Colorado shot 43 percent from the floor (24-for-56), but just 4-for-20 from 3-point range. The Buffs also shot just 33.3 percent from the floor in the second half (8-for-24) and committed nine of their 14 turnovers after halftime, but did finish with a 40-28 rebounding edge.
"We were lucky to win tonight," Boyle said. "We didn't need a three to put it in overtime, thank goodness, because I'm not sure we could have made one, but we did what we had to do to win a game when we weren't at our best. To me you take a little bit of solace in that. But we have to get better offensively."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado led by as much as 15 in the first half and still had an eight-point edge at intermission, 39-31.
"We came out, we got off to a really good start," Boyle said. "We made some shots, our ball movement was really good, our man movement was really good. And then we think it's going to be easy, and that's what young teams do. They think, 'It's going to be like this the rest of the night.' Well let me tell you what, it's not going to be."
Indeed, after shooting 50 percent from the floor in the first half, the Buffs went cold in the second and also suffered from a rash of turnovers.
That combination helped the Eagles slowly chip away at CU's lead. EWU tied the game at 49-49 with 7:04 to play on a Venters 3-pointer, then finally went ahead, 53-51, on a Mason Landeck layup with 5:05 to play.
Landeck then hit two free throws 30 seconds later after Colorado's ninth turnover of the half to extend Colorado's deficit to four, 55-51, with the Buffs scoring just 12 points in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
"The most concerning thing to me tonight, and I told them this in the locker room after the game, was our energy and effort," Boyle said. "I could feel it in the huddles, it just wasn't there. It was blank looks. There was no response tonight."
But after falling behind by four, the Buffs finally did manufacture a response.
Following a timeout, Battey hit a bucket inside and added a free throw to pull Colorado within one before the Buffs got a defensive stop on the other end. CU then regained the lead, 57-55, on a Walker three-point play with 2:17 to play.
Eastern Washington tied the game again on a Venters bucket, but Colorado regained the lead for good on a Battey jump hook with 1:31 to play. It was Battey's ninth point of the game, all coming in the second half.
CU got defensive stops on EWU's next two possessions and although the Buffs missed three of four free throw attempts in the final seconds, the Buffs survived when an Eastern Washington 3-pointer at the buzzer came up just short.
"Eastern Washington, give them credit," Boyle said. "They're tough-minded kids and are a good program. They've been in the NCAA Tournament, they know what it takes to win and their coach does. So we were fortunate to win this game. They missed some open threes there at the end, thank goodness. We were lucky to win this."
Colorado stumbled at the game's outset but quickly recovered with a 14-0 run to take a 14-6 lead less than five minutes in. Walker started the run with a three-point play, Barthelemy had seven points in the surge and Elijah Parquet added four.
The Buffs then built their margin to double digits with a 7-0 run midway through the half and extended the cushion to as much as 15 when a Walker drive to the basket gave Colorado a 33-18 edge with 6:24 left in the half.
The Eagles, though, slowly chipped away and reduced the deficit to eight, 39-31, with a 3-pointer from Venters just before the half.
CU outrebounded the Eagles, 18-12, in the opening half and also forced eight turnovers, which the Buffs converted into 11 points.
TURNING POINT: With just under three minutes to play, the Buffs were down by four. But Battey barely beat the shot clock with a drive to the hoop and ensuing free throw and Colorado followed with a defensive stop. Walker then gave CU the lead for good with another three-point play with 2:17 left in the game.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs found a way to win when they didn't play well, but they will have to find a way to be more consistent on offense as Pac-12 play looms closer.
KEY STATISTICS: Colorado had a 40-28 rebounding edge … The Buffs held EWU to 40 percent shooting (22-for-55) … Colorado had a 34-22 edge in points in the paint.
QUOTEWORTHY: "We've got some good shooters that are getting good shots that aren't making shots. That's part of basketball. I can live with that. That might frustrate me, that might frustrate them. But it doesn't anger me. What angers me is our lack of fire or lack of energy. That's what I get angry at. I don't care if you miss a shot. What I care about is do you have a little life and fight, spunk to you when you're in the huddle, not head down, feeling sorry for yourself. There's nobody that feels sorry for Colorado basketball right now. Nobody. I want guys that are gonna hook it up and compete." — CU head coach Tad Boyle
NEXT UP: The Buffs return to the Events Center on Friday when they play host to Milwaukee in a 7:30 p.m. contest (Pac-12 Networks).