Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.
Contact CU Independent staff writer Jake Mauff at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Jama4737CMCI.
Jake Mauff: Has the dust settled yet? Are we okay to talk about this now? I certainly know it was a tough time for Buffs fans throughout the land, and it will leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth until next season starts and we shake these ghosts. Now, there are two ways to look at this game: a Colorado loss or a UConn win. I chose to look at it as the latter option. UConn chose to go with the “down-not-out” mentality and played their hearts out in the second half.
A team that scores 47 points in a half means serious business. Especially after only scoring 27 the previous half. This team knew how to face adversity and what to change when. That’s the first sign of a good team win. At the half, UConn had only sunk a third of their shots. That’s why they were in the situation they were in. The Huskies dialed in and shot 46.4 percent after intermission. The only time you have to be leading is the final seconds, and that’s pretty much what UConn did in this first round tournament game. It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough.
Justin Guerriero: This game’s end result seemed far more suited for CU’s football team. I’d offer a late congratulations to the Huskies, as they were the winners of the contest. But come on, Jake, this game was in the palms of the Buffaloes’ hands. They blew it. To say the Buffs lost seems more accurate to me than saying that the Huskies won. It all went south in the second half of play for Colorado. The Buffs were up 36-27 at halftime after playing a solid first 20 minutes. But from there, Colorado allowed UConn to claw its way back into the game and take control.
You’re right Jake. Connecticut was best in the nation from the free throw line this season. In the first half, the Buffs played smart, sending Huskies players to the line for just four total shots. But in the second half, UConn players took an eyebrow-raising 19 foul shots, of which 18 were converted, to the Buffs’ misery.
I’d also like to point out that in the game, UConn out-hustled Colorado and scored 16 fast break points compared to the Buffs’ measly two. The Buffaloes also gave up 16 points off of turnovers in the second half. Saying that Colorado shot itself in the foot simply isn’t enough.
JM: You’re right in one way, Justin. We sent UConn to the line a ferocious amount in the second half. Some of that had to do with the fact that they fell behind. The mentality had to be along the lines of “They make 79 percent of their shots; they’ll miss some and then we’ll be able to come back and close the gap.”
That opportunity never manifested. Out of 23 attempts, the Huskies missed only one. Colorado played a game that could have won a tournament match-up. They played good defense and converted a fair amount of their own shots. A big part of the discrepancies between the teams was the free-throw shooting. That’s a fundamental aspect of the game that UConn made sure to execute on. Colorado should have known going into the game that fouling the Huskies was a bad idea, because UConn led the country in free-throw percentage by pretty much a whole percentage point.
Say what you want about one play, but these sports don’t go down to one play. It isn’t about individuals, it’s about a team. Connecticut played better as a whole than Colorado did, and that’s what it takes to win. Again, the Buffaloes played a good game and probably would have come out with a win against a fair amount of other teams in the tournament, but they pulled the short straw and got a match-up with a tough team with an even better mentality.
JG: The Buffs were in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, ready to speed of into the sunset, otherwise known as the Round of 32. But at that very moment it was like the Buffs got carpal tunnel syndrome and spazzed out before being able to turn on the engine. Yeah, the Huskies outperformed the Buffs substantially from the free throw line, but it was Colorado’s fault to begin with that they were there to even take those shots. We saw this type of game from the Buffs in the regular season against Utah and USC towards the end of the season. Winnable games that Colorado was commanding, and yet somehow let slip through its fingers.
The fact of the matter is that early in the second half, the Buffs allowed UConn to go on a 7-o run to bring them within two, with CU still up 42-40. Shortly after that, another 7-0 Huskies run put them up on the Buffs 49-46, forcing head coach Tad Boyle to call a timeout in an attempt to slow Connecticut’s momentum.
It clearly didn’t work because the moment that the Buffs stepped back onto the court after the 30-second pause in play, UConn went on a 9-0 run, putting them up 57-48. At that point, Colorado had dug itself into a hole from which it would never be able to climb out of.
I think what we need to ask ourselves is, when that game ended, were we all as Buffs fans ready to offer congratulations to the Huskies as the superior team? The answer is no.
If you think that the Buffs played a great game and were simply outmatched by UConn, I’ve got news for you: the Buffs should have and could have won that game, but yet again, headed home early. What a shame to put an end to Josh Scott’s career at CU that way. To think he dropped 23 points in the losing effort sickens me. No other Buffalo scored in double digits. I admire your effort to be mature and salute the winning side, Jake, but for me, there’s no way around knowing deep down that the Buffs blew this one big time.