Buffs Fall To Bonnies in NIT Opener
BOULDER — Colorado's postseason came to a disappointing and abrupt end Tuesday night, as the Buffaloes dropped a 76-68 decision to St. Bonaventure in the opening round of the NIT at the CU Events Center.
Tad Boyle's Buffs finished the year at 21-12 while the Bonnies improved to 21-9 and will face Oklahoma in the second round.
CU led by three at intermission and by 10 early in the second half, but could not sustain the margin as the Bonnies came back by shooting nearly 56 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes.
The game was tied at 68-68 with just more than two minutes to play, but the Buffs were outscored 8-0 over the final two minutes.
Keeshawn Barthelemy scored 15 points for Colorado while senior Evan Battey had 14 points in his final game in a Buff uniform and Tristan da Silva added 13.
Jalen Adaway led five Bonnies in double figures with 17 points.
CU's defense never found an answer for St. Bonaventure's balance, as the Bonnies shot 53 percent for the game (29-for-55), including 10-for-20 from 3-point range. The Buffs, meanwhile, were just 25-for-58 from the floor, including a 7-for-25 effort from beyond the arc.
"They were the better team, they were the tougher team and it showed from the get-go," said Boyle, whose team lost six games at home this year — the most in his 12 years in Boulder. "We couldn't stop them. I thought our guys wanted to play, wanted to extend the season, but St. Bonaventure wanted to extend their season more than we did. A really disappointing loss."
HOW IT HAPPENED: The Buffs led by three at intermission and looked ready to take control for good with a 7-0 run to start the second half. Da Silva opened with a dunk, Battey followed with a bucket inside and Julian Hammond III nailed a long 3-pointer to give the Buffs a 46-36 edge two minutes in.
But the Bonnie regrouped and put together a 13-2 run to regain the lead, dropping in a pair of 3-pointers in the surge to take a 49-48 edge.
"You can't keep trading baskets in a game like this," Boyle said. "At some point you better figure out how to guard somebody."
Colorado did momentarily regain the lead, but St. Bonaventure again answered with a 5-0 run for a 62-57 lead with 7:41 to play.
The Buffs managed to stay within range over the next three minutes, closing the gap to one, 66-65, on three Battey free throws, then tying it up at 68-68 on a da Silva three-point play with 2:16 remaining.
But the Bonnies answered with eight straight points over the next 1:50 for a 76-68 lead as the Buffs came up empty on their last four offensive possessions.
CU finished by hitting just one of its last 10 shots and did not score in the last 2:16 of the game.
"We had too many empty possessions," Boyle said. "We had two shot clock violations at some really big moments. If you have a shot clock violation you're not mentally into the game."
Colorado started slowly, as St. Bonaventure hit four of its first five shots to jump out to a 10-2 lead less than three minutes in.
That prompted a Boyle timeout and his message evidently sank in. Led by Barthelemy, CU emerged from the stoppage to slowly chip away at the deficit before putting together an 8-0 run to take an 18-17 lead, with Barthelemy scoring nine points in a five minute stretch.
The Bonnies came back to momentarily take the lead, but the Buffs regained the edge again with five straight points, capped by a Jabari Walker dunk, and Colorado took a 39-36 lead into intermission.
WHAT IT MEANS: CU's postseason ended far too quickly, and the memory of a home loss to end the year will sting for the entire postseason. The Buffs have a solid nucleus of returning players, but they also have plenty of work to do in order to make a return to the NCAA Tournament.
KEY STATISTICS: The Bonnies shot 53 percent for the game (29-for-55), including 10-for-20 from 3-point range … The Buffs were just 25-for-58 from the floor, including a 7-for-25 effort from beyond the arc … St. Bonaventure reaped 14 points off of 11 CU turnovers.
QUOTEWORTHY: "The offseason starts tomorrow. I'm a quick turnaround guy and the challenge for me and my staff is what we can do to become a top three defensive team and top three rebounding team next year. It starts now." — CU head coach Tad Boyle
NEXT UP: The loss ended CU's season.