Buffs Knock Off Ducks In Pac-12 Quarters, Face Arizona Next
LAS VEGAS — Colorado made a statement Thursday in the Pac-12 tournament.
Now, the Buffaloes hope the NCAA Selection Committee is paying attention after Evan Battey and Jabari Walker each recorded double-doubles to lead the Buffaloes to an 80-69 Pac-12 quarterfinal win over Oregon at T-Mobile Arena.
Tad Boyle's fourth-seeded Buffs, who improved to 21-10 with the win, will face top-seeded and nationally second-ranked Arizona in a 7 p.m. semifinal Friday at T-Mobile.
The Buffs trailed by seven midway through the first half, but used a 12-0 run to take a 36-30 halftime lead and they never trailed again en route to posting their eighth win in their last nine games.
Walker finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds for his 17th double-double of the year while Battey recorded his first of the season, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman K.J. Simpson had 11 points, seven rebounds, six assists and a pair of steals and Tristan da Silva chipped in 12 points.
Quincy Guerrier had 25 points for the fifth seed Ducks, who fell to 19-14 on the season.
Colorado's defense was stellar for most of 40 minutes. CU held Oregon to 34 percent shooting (24-for-70), including a critical 1-for-13 effort by the Ducks in the final 7:42 of the first half. The Buffs shot just 40.5 percent (30-for-74), but had a dominant 55-42 edge on the boards, giving Colorado a season-high in rebounds. CU's rebound total included 17 on the offensive end that produced 15 second-chance points.
Colorado also had a 25-10 edge in points off the bench.
"We beat a really good program that's won a lot of games and is very, very well-coached," Boyle said. "We knew this wasn't going to be easy and it wasn't. I'm proud of our guys because we really struggled offensively out of the chute … We missed some shots but it didn't affect us on the other end and we hung in there. We found a way to break it open and beat a good team, and now we live to see another day."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado trailed by seven with just more than six minutes to play in the first half, but used a 12-0 run to take a 36-30 halftime lead. The Ducks did manage to pull within one early in the second half, but CU never panicked and never allowed the Ducks to put together anything resembling a big run.
That patience on the offensive end and continued outstanding defense finally allowed the Buffs to take control for good over the last seven minutes, as Colorado turned a four-point lead with 6:31 to play into a 13-point cushion with three minutes to go, thanks to a decisive 13-4 run.
Walker had eight points in the surge, Simpson added a pair of baskets and da Silva and Nique Clifford each chipped in a bucket. Defensively, CU forced six empty Oregon possessions in the stretch, leading to five Colorado baskets in six trips down the court.
"We just had to keep getting stops because Oregon can make threes," Boyle said. "They're an explosive offensive team."
But the Ducks didn't have enough 3-pointers in the final minutes to make a difference. The Buffs held the Ducks at bay down the stretch, never allowing Oregon to get closer than eight the rest of the way to earn their third trip to the conference tourney semifinals in the last four seasons.
"We're playing for a championship in this tournament," Boyle said. "We figured out a way to get to the semis, now we have to figure out a way to beat Arizona. That's not going to be easy. We're going to fight."
Colorado led in the opening minutes, but a 10-2 Oregon run gave the Ducks an 18-11 lead midway through the half.
But the Buffs stepped up on the defensive end, helping spark a 12-0 run that turned a 25-18 deficit into a 30-25 lead. CU produced seven straight defensive stops in the stretch while the offense produced a Keeshawn Barthelemy three-point play, a long 3-pointer from Walker, dunks from Tristan da Silva and K.J. Simpson and a Battey bucket off an offensive rebound.
Oregon finally ended a 3:45 scoring drought with a pair of free throws and then ended a 6:36 drought without a field goal on a Quincy Guerrier basket to pull within 33-30.
But the Buffs perfectly executed a play out of a timeout to get a 3-pointer from Luke O'Brien and Colorado took a 36-30 lead into intermission.
CU held Oregon to 28 percent shooting in the half (10-for-36), including a 1-for-13 stretch over the last 7:42 of the period, and Battey led CU with 12 points and six rebounds.
NOTEWORTHY: Colorado is now 18-10 in conference tournament play in the Boyle era — well more than half of CU's conference tourney wins in program history (29-44) … Colorado is 9-2 in the Pac-12 championships as the higher seeded team. Five of CU's nine Pac-12 tourney losses have come against the top two seeds … The Buffs have won at least one game in nine of their 10 Pac-12 tourney appearances.
TURNING POINT: Oregon looked ready to assume control after taking a 25-18 lead with just more than six minutes to play in the first half. But the Buffs put together a 12-0 run to regain the lead and they never trailed again.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. They could still gain the Pac-12's automatic berth by winning their next two and claiming the tourney title. They could also squeeze themselves into the at-large conversation with a win Friday against the Wildcats.
KEY STATISTICS: CU held Oregon to 34 percent shooting (24-for-70), including a critical 1-for-13 effort by the Ducks in the final 7:42 of the first half … The Buffs shot just 40.5 percent (30-for-74), but had a dominant 55-42 edge on the boards, giving Colorado a season-high in rebounds … CU's rebound total included 17 on the offensive end that produced 15 second-chance points … Colorado also had a 25-10 edge in points off the bench.
QUOTEWORTHY: "I think there's a big bias with the East Coast, and quite frankly, ESPN. They're talking about Virginia Tech (as an NCAA bubble team). They've got one quad 1 win. We've got three. They're squarely on the bubble and we're not even in the conversation. I hope the (NCAA) committee is smarter than the people putting that thing together … If you look at this Colorado team today relative to where we were in November or December, if you don't think we're one of the top 68 teams in the country, you are sorely mistaken." — CU head coach Tad Boyle
NEXT UP: The Buffs face top-seeded and No. 2 nationally ranked Arizona (29-3) in a 7 p.m. semifinal Friday at T-Mobile Arena. The game will be televised by the Pac-12 Network with KOA carrying the radio broadcast.