It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. After falling to a 41-27 deficit at halftime against Washington State, the University of Colorado men’s basketball team rallied to beat the Cougars 73-63 Wednesday night. The Buffaloes split with Washington State in the regular season, losing 91-89 in OT on the road and winning 81-49 at home. At a neutral site in Las Vegas, the Buffs prevailed in the Pac-12 Tournament’s first round.
Things were looking grim for the Buffs in the first half after they shot an abysmal 2-11 from beyond the arc. Colorado couldn’t find its flow on offense, and there wasn’t much movement off the ball. CU kept trying to claw its way back into the game from long range, but it wasn’t until the second half when they started looking for better shots that they made their comeback.
After looking defeated in the first half, the Buffs came out firing on all cylinders in the second, going on a 10-2 run that brought them within striking distance. Two things were huge factors in the second half for Colorado. One of them was the defense, and the other was a man named Derrick White.
While the Buffs’ defense wasn’t awful in the first half, WSU came out hitting their shots, with Charles Callison hitting four out of his first five. Once the Buffs were down by about 10, they brought out the full court press, which WSU had trouble dealing with and created a couple turnovers. The turnover battle was tied 11-11, but the full court press throughout most of the game allowed the Buffs to compensate for the mistakes they made in the first half.
When the Buffs beat Washington State earlier in the year, they held Josh Hawkinson to just eight points. Tonight, he only had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Locking up Hawkinson was key for the Buffs.
CU senior guard White was an animal in the second half, leading the Buffaloes on their 10-2 run to start the half and providing consistent offense until the final buzzer sounded. He finished with 26 points, a game high, as well as five rebounds and five assists. The Buffs ran their offense through White, and once he got his touch back in the second half, it was off to the races. White had 17 in the second half alone.
The game stayed close after Colorado’s second-half comeback, but a three and a nasty tomahawk slam from senior forward Xavier Johnson put the finishing touch on what was a great bounce-back by the Buffaloes. Johnson had 19 points in the game.
The Buffaloes will move on in the tournament to play No. 2 seed Arizona tomorrow. Another slow start could be costly for Colorado; they can’t afford to make as many mistakes as they did tonight against a very good team in Arizona. The last time the two teams met, the Wildcats bested the Buffaloes 82-73. We’ll see how the hot Buffs, who have won six of their last eight, fare against a top-tier conference foe.
Contact CU Independent Sports Writer Alex Pepper at Alexander.Pepper@colorado.edu.