Buffs Fall At Home To ASU As Win Streak Ends At Five
BOULDER — Colorado's five-game win streak game to a crashing halt Thursday, as the Buffaloes dropped an 82-65 decision to Arizona State at the CU Events Center.
Tad Boyle's Buffs fell to 18-10 overall and 10-8 in Pac-12 play while the Sun Devils avenged a home loss to Colorado earlier this season to improve to 11-16, 7-10.
The loss, coming on the heels of a win streak that saw the Buffs win three in a row on the road, dropped Colorado to 11-5 at home this year. That matches the most home losses for the Buffs in Boyle's 12 years in Boulder, with one home game — Saturday's matchup with No. 2 Arizona — remaining. CU's home record also is a rarity in that Colorado this year has more home losses (five) than road losses (four).
After a fast start, the Buffs fell behind midway through the first half and trailed by 11 at intermission, 37-26. Colorado missed nine straight 3-pointers in the first half and did not have a field goal in the final 5:37 of the period. The Sun Devils then steadily built their lead after intermission, pushing their cushion to as much as 26 down the stretch.
Evan Battey led CU with 13 points, Jabari Walker added 12 and Keeshawn Barthelemy chipped in 10.
The Sun Devils had four players in double figures, led by 18 from Jay Heath. ASU also won for just the second time in 11 tries in Boulder and ended a six-game losing streak on CU's floor.
The Buffs were dominated in just about every statistical category. The Sun Devils shot 49 percent for the game (30-for-61) while CU shot just 39 percent from the floor (21-for-54). ASU also thoroughly beat Colorado on the boards, 37-25 — CU's lowest rebound total of the season — and the Sun Devils had a 35-15 edge in points off the bench.
The Buffs also tied a season low with just eight assists.
"We just got our butt kicked tonight," an obviously irate Boyle said. "There's no way to sugarcoat it. We weren't ready to play. We've got a bunch of guys right now that rely on their offense and rely on their shot going in to score the basketball to give them energy to play the game. We don't have the maturity I thought we did. I thought we showed some maturity the last few games, but we don't have the maturity to sustain it in terms of executing a defensive game plan and playing with energy. We've got to prepare ourselves to win games or win a game when the shots aren't falling. Tonight was that night. We were unable to do it."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Early on, the Buffs looked ready to extend their win streak to six. CU jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead on a Nique Clifford bucket and Battey 3-pointer, and still had a 16-14 advantage midway through the half.
But the situation quickly went south for the Buffs after that. ASU used an 11-0 run to claim a 25-16 lead and the Buffs never led again.
"We couldn't guard anybody," Boyle said. "It was a lack of effort and a lack of concentration. We have too many guys that rely on their offense for energy — and when their offense isn't there, they don't have any energy."
Colorado's offense indeed went stone cold over the last 10 minutes of the half. After Battey's opening 3-pointer, the Buffs missed nine in a row from long distance, and they failed to record a field goal in the final 5:37 of the half.
That opened the door for ASU to slowly build its lead into double digits. The Sun Devils went ahead 34-23 on the heels of an 8-0 run late in the half and pushed the margin to 13 before Colorado narrowed the deficit to 11, 37-26, with two Battey free throws just before halftime.
The Buffs' problems were compounded by foul troubles, with Walker whistled for three infractions before halftime. Walker drew his second less than six minutes in and headed to the bench, then his third at the 4:46 mark of the half soon after re-entering the game.
In their first matchup this season, the Buffs had a 46-31 rebounding edge in a 75-57 victory in Tempe.
But the Sun Devils flipped the script in Boulder, outrebounding Colorado by three in the first half and by nine in the second.
"Lack of effort, lack of toughness," Boyle said succinctly. "End of story"
While Colorado has been a good second half team this year, the Buffs couldn't create anything resembling a rally after intermission. Instead, Arizona State steadily built its lead throughout the second half, extending its cushion to as much as 26 down the stretch.
"We couldn't get back in the game because we couldn't get stops," Boyle said. "Our players have to do some soul searching."
The Buffs missed 13 of their first 18 shots of the half while ASU was 15-for-22 over the same stretch. That included an 8-for-8 ASU surge that helped produce a 10-0 run and a 26-point cushion, 72-46, with just under seven minutes to play.
"I'm the head coach, I take responsibility," Boyle said. "This team did not respond and that's on me. But we all have some soul searching to do after a game like that."
TURNING POINT: After Colorado scored four in a row to take a 16-14 lead midway through the first half, ASU answered with an 11-0 run to take control and CU never led again.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs entered the week still with a chance to climb into the top four of the Pac-12 standings and earn a first-round tournament bye. But the loss, combined with Oregon's win over UCLA, will make the task difficult with just two games remaining.
KEY STATISTICS: ASU shot 49 percent for the game (30-for-61) while CU shot just 39 percent from the floor (21-for-54) … The Buffs — the Pac-12's leading 3-point shooting team — hit just 6 of 17 tries from long distance, including a stretch of 11 straight misses … Colorado was outrebounded 37-25, CU's lowest rebound total of the season … The Buffs tied a season low with just eight assists.
QUOTEWORTHY: "It's disappointing. This was an opportunity to get a first-round bye in the tournament but after a game like this, you're wondering if we'll win another game." — CU head coach Tad Boyle
NEXT UP: The Buffs wrap up their regular season home schedule Saturday with a 6 p.m. game against No. 2 Arizona. CU then closes out the regular season Saturday, March 5, with a 7:30 p.m game at Utah.