By B.G. Brooks, CUBuffs.com Contributing Editor
PULLMAN, Wash. – On a night when the Colorado Buffaloes’ offense came and went, their constant was defense – and it carried them to their second Pac-12 Conference victory and first of the season on the road.
CU kept grinding and grinding and finally put away Washington State 58-49 Saturday night at Beasley Coliseum. The Buffs went to 12-6 overall and 2-4 in the Pac-12, while the Cougars dropped to 10-8, 1-4.
Buffs coach Tad Boyle told his team that the “hungrier, tougher team” would win Saturday night – and his team proved to be both. CU survived a cold-shooting final 6:15 of the first half and fell behind by four points early in the second half.
But the Buffs rallied behind their defense and late offense provided by Spencer Dinwiddie, whose three-pointer in the game’s last 6 minutes helped keep the Cougars at bay. That shot restored a five-point lead, and he followed with a pair of free throws at the 4:37 mark for another five-point margin.
“That was an ugly win, we have got to get better offensively. We only put up 44 shots to their 58 and we had some silly turnovers, but again, you take a win on the road,” said CU head coach Tad Boyle on 850 KOA. “I thought that there were a couple key performances tonight; number one: Andre [Roberson] was terrific on [Washington State’s Brock] Motum tonight as he made him work for everything. He is the difference in the game defensively, people are going to look at his stat line and maybe say ‘Oh Andre had an off night’ but he didn’t have an off night on defense. They were obviously boxing him out, they were face guarding him and being physical with him, but he was driven.”
“Number two: Xavier Johnson, really gave us great minutes tonight and got inside and he is a beast down there. And then ‘Ski [Booker] made some shots when he had to make shots. He’s 3-for-11 so his efficiency is not very good but two of his three that he made were big shots in the second half and then he had a great assist to Xavier [Johnson] and that is where we kind of blew it open.”
Dinwiddie led CU with 16 points, with Xavier Johnson contributing 14 and Josh Scott 11. WSU got 13 each from Brock Motum and Mike Ladd.
The Buffs held the Cougars to 34.5 percent from the field – their second straight game of keeping an opponent below 40 percent. CU shot 43.2 percent, including 47.8 in the second half.
CU comes home next week to play Stanford (Thursday, 8 p.m.) and California (Sunday, 1:30 p.m.) before traveling to Utah the following Saturday to open February.
The Buffs led 23-19 at halftime, but it took a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Will DiOrio to get the Cougars that close. After a 9-9 tie, CU went ahead by as many as seven point on four occasions during the half’s final 6:15.
Among Boyle’s Saturday night goal for the Buffs was to be more selective in their shot selection and move the ball like they’ve shown they’re capable of in practice. CU was hit-and-miss in both areas, with the offense bogging down at times and the Buffs playing their second consecutive game without a three-pointer in the opening 20 minutes.
In fact, CU finished the half’s final 6:15 without a field goal, getting four of four free throws from Scott and one of two from Xavier Johnson to maintain their seven-point lead until DiOrio’s late trey.
But if the Buffs’ offensive struggles continued, they also continued to play the same brand of rugged defense shown three nights early at Washington. WSU’s 29.6 field goal percentage (8-for-27) was the lowest by a CU opponent this season at halftime, as were the Buffs’ and Cougars’ combined 42 first-half points.
CU’s plan was to go inside to the 6-10 Scott, and it worked in the opening half. For the fifth time in his freshman year, he went to the locker room as the Buffs’ scoring leader, getting nine points on two of five field goals and five of six free throws.
The Cougars outscored the Buffs 7-2 in the second half’s first 31/2 minutes and regained the lead (26-25) for the first time since 9-7. CU took it back (27-26) on a pair of Eli Stalzer free throws but WSU five consecutive points from Royce Woolridge to take its largest advantage (31-27) to that point.
The Buffs desperately needed a field goal – and Johnson provided a pair to pull them within one point (32-31). A fast-break layup by Spencer Dinwiddie pushed CU back ahead by one, setting up what appeared would be a back-and-forth final 10 minutes.
It was – for maybe a minute and a half.
Askia Booker, who had two first-half points on one-for-five shooting, hit a jumper to pull the Buffs into a 37-37 tie, Dinwiddie followed with a traditional three-point play, then Booker buried another jumper for a 42-37 CU advantage.
WSU had 7:21 to make up the five-point deficit, but could get no closer than three in the final 5 minutes. CU increased its lead to 11 (58-47) on two free throws by Roberson Booker with 28.3 seconds to play – and the Buffs finally could feel safe about a rare road win.
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