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The Buffs' goal for the season has now shifted from simply making the NCAA Tournament to winning the National Invitation Tournament.

Colorado got off to a good start in the postseason on Wednesday night by tying the program record for wins in a season (22) with an 88-74 victory over Texas Southern in the first round of the NIT in front of 6,299 hostile witnesses at the Coors Events Center.

Cory Higgins set the tone for the tournament by scoring 16 of his 25 points in the first half. In the process, the senior guard passed CU legend Cliff Meely for third on the school's all-time scoring list.

"We definitely were having fun out there. Anytime you can play another game with these guys it's always going to be fun, especially me being a senior," Higgins said after shooting 8-for-11 from the field in the first postseason game of his career. "We just wanted to let it all hang out there and really just not worry about anything else."

Alec Burks scored a game-high 27 points on 8-for-9 shooting, and Andre Roberson added a career-high 15 points and a game-high eight rebounds for the Buffs.

"This is just good experience," said Roberson, a true freshman who seems to be getting better as the season ages. "If you lose, you're done for the rest of the season."

The top-seeded Buffs (22-13) will host No. 4 Cal (18-14) on Friday night at the Coors Events Center (7:30 p.m., ESPNU).

CU head coach Tad Boyle and athletic director Mike Bohn hope that having a future Pac-12 foe in the house will help draw another good crowd in the second round.

The students, who came out in force to support the team with the incentive of free tickets courtesy of the athletic department, are expected to abandon campus on Friday ahead of next week's spring break.

Shannon Sharpe of CU shoots under Harrison Smith of Texas Southernduring the first half of the March 16, 2011 NIT game in Boulder, Colo.Cliff Grassmick /
Shannon Sharpe of CU shoots under Harrison Smith of Texas Southern during the first half of the March 16, 2011 NIT game in Boulder, Colo. Cliff Grassmick / March 16, 2011 ( Cliff Grassmick )

"We were touched by our fans all week long with their support," Bohn said. "The ticket office has been busy all week and the students, as usual, were terrific. I thought they were classy and used great restraint in engaging in any type of message associated with the events from earlier in the week."

The Buffs knew it was time to let their play do the talking on how they feel about not being invited to the Big Dance.

Burks opened the second half with a dunk off a set play -- one of many highlight-reel slams -- to keep the crowd on its feet. Levi Knutson's second 3-pointer after halftime gave CU a 65-45 lead with 11:13 to play.

The Buffs led by as many as 24 points before Boyle subbed Higgins and Burks out to a standing ovation.

"Cory deserves it and he has deserved it before this year," Boyle said of the senior finally experiencing some form of March madness. "I'm glad that he is being rewarded. All of our guys are being rewarded by it because they have worked awful hard."

After a sluggish start offensively, the Buffs led 44-29 at the intermission after closing the first half with an 18-6 run.

Texas Southern fell behind 10-2 out of the gates, but after making three 3-pointers and a three-point play during a four-possession spurt the visitors were within 26-23 with 5:38 to go.

"I thought mentally we were a little bit out of it," Boyle said. "Physically, I thought we played hard. Mentally, I thought we were in a little bit of a funk."

Burks capped a 10-0 run with a spectacular reverse layup to make the score 40-25 just before halftime.

CU finished the game shooting 61.2 percent from the field while holding the Southwest Athletic Conference regular-season champions to 39.7 percent.

The more aggressive Buffs won the battle of the boards 37-29 and made more free throws (24) than the Tigers attempted (16).

"I think they should have been in the (NCAA) Tournament," Texas Southern head coach Harrison Smith said. "It's always a big thing to go on the road because the crowd is also a big factor. Emotions get running and players feed off the emotion of the crowd."

A victory over Cal would give the Buffs more wins than any other team in program history.

"Obviously, we wanted to be in the NCAA Tournament and be remembered for that," Knutson said. "But I think being the winningest team at CU would be pretty special.

You get the feeling this group won't be completely satisfied without adding a Madison Square Garden memory to the 2010-11 season.

Colorado 88,

Texas Southern 74

TEXAS SOUTHERN (74)

FG FT Reb

Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS

King 15 2-2 0-0 3-6 1 4 4

Galloway 40 1-9 3-4 0-4 11 1 6

Jones 39 7-18 3-5 4-6 0 4 17

Price 8 1-2 0-0 1-1 0 2 2

J-Danner 38 7-14 1-1 2-5 0 2 19

Norris 6 0-3 0-0 0-0 0 2 0

Smith 33 8-13 5-6 2-4 0 4 24

Christie 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Denson 5 0-2 0-0 0-1 0 2 0

Ray 16 1-5 0-0 0-0 2 1 2

Totals 200 27-68 12-16 13-29 14 22 74

Percentages: FG .397, FT .750.

3-Point Goals: 8-28, .286 (Johnson-Danner 4-8, Smith 3-6, Galloway 1-6, Ray 0-2, Norris 0-3, Jones 0-3).

Team Rebounds: 2.

Blocked Shots: 2 (King, Price).

Turnovers: 9 (Jones 3, Galloway 2, King, Johnson-Danner, Norris, Smith).

Steals: 9 (Galloway 3, Jones 3, Smith 2, Ray).

Technical Fouls: None.

COLORADO (88)

FG FT Reb

Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS

Dufault 16 0-5 0-0 2-5 1 2 0

Tmlinsn 27 0-0 0-0 0-0 6 0 0

Relphrd 25 1-4 5-6 1-4 0 0 7

Burks 30 8-9 10-13 1-7 4 1 27

Higgins 28 8-11 8-10 1-5 2 3 25

Sharpe 14 3-4 0-0 0-1 3 3 6

Coney 6 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 2

Robersn 26 7-8 1-2 2-8 2 4 15

Knutson 24 2-7 0-0 0-3 1 0 6

Mills 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Eckloff 2 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

Totals 200 30-49 24-31 7-37 19 14 88

Percentages: FG .612, FT .774.

3-Point Goals: 4-15, .267 (Knutson 2-6, Burks 1-1, Higgins 1-4, Roberson 0-1, Relphorde 0-3).

Team Rebounds: 4.

Blocked Shots: 2 (Roberson 2).

Turnovers: 13 (Higgins 3, Sharpe 2, Relphorde 2, Roberson 2, Tomlinson 2, Knutson, Dufault).

Steals: 6 (Tomlinson 2, Burks 2, Roberson, Relphorde).

Technical Fouls: None.

Texas Southern 29 45--74

Colorado 44 44--88

A -- 6,299.

Officials -- Bob Staffen, Winston Stith, Ronnie Hernandez.