What went right: The Buffs were markedly improved in almost every facet compared to their opener, going 21-for-26 from the free-throw line and outrebounding Auburn 38-30.
What went wrong: CU's 3-point defense was suspect early, as Kareem Canty shot Auburn into the lead while leading the Tigers to eight first-half 3-pointers. The Buffs' D tightened, though, holding Auburn to a 2-for-10 3-point mark after halftime.
Star of the game: With apologies to Josh Scott, redshirt sophomore George King made 4-of-6 3-pointers, finishing with a game-high 27 points and adding seven rebounds.
What's next?: CU hosts Portland in its home opener on Friday night at 7.
-- Pat Rooney
AUBURN, Ala. — This is how stars are born.
Granted, George King is just two games removed from a redshirt season that followed a true freshman year during which he was an afterthought. Yet after the performance he put together in a hostile environment Tuesday before a national television audience, few will be overlooking King the remainder of the season.
The University of Colorado's redshirt sophomore turned in a scintillating effort at Auburn, leading the Buffaloes to an impressive 91-84 win against the host Tigers. The win allowed CU to salvage a split of its demanding two-game opening road swing ahead of Friday's home opener against Portland.
"As I was sitting out, I worked a lot on my game," King said. "I already knew I was versatile. But coach (Tad) Boyle emphasized that with my size if I put on some weight, I could really give guys problems. Tonight, I was just able to hit some lucky shots."
Perhaps one of them was lucky — an off-balance jumper King heaved toward the basket while getting fouled late in the first half — but the rest was a clinical dissection of the Auburn defense by King and his CU teammates.
Down 15 points late in the first half after a torrid start from 3-point range by the Tigers, CU didn't buckle in the face of a raucous Auburn Arena crowd. King helped silence that crowd by leading a critical 13-2 run before the break, scoring eight points during the burst that trimmed the Auburn lead to 46-42 at halftime.
Auburn shot 8-for-14 from 3-point range during the first half, with Kareem Canty leading the Tigers' opening salvo by draining his first five attempts from long range. Auburn made only 2-of-10 3-pointers after the break.
"To be down 15 in the first half and show the mental fortitude, the mental toughness that it takes to not quit believing and not get rattled and sticking with it, this is tremendous," Boyle said. "We took their best shot, at least we felt we did. If they kept shooting like that, especially from deep, we'd shake their hands and congratulate them. Because they would beat us. But it's hard for a team to do that for 40 minutes. I think our defense was much better in the second half, and offensively we really had some guys grow up big time."
King and Josh Scott led the way for CU, with King finishing with 27 points on a 9-for-14 shooting performance and Scott going 8-for-10 while finishing with 24 points.
However, another promising sign for CU was how neither player was on the floor for the bulk of a 10-2 run midway through the second half that gave the Buffs the lead for good. Josh Fortune recorded five points during the spurt, while Dom Collier and Wesley Gordon also turned in key plays as CU captured the momentum.
In a tightly called game that saw a total of 55 fouls called CU also held the edge at the free throw line, going 21-for-26 while the Tigers struggled to a 12-for-22 mark.
"It was a hard game to officiate — physical, hard played by both teams," Boyle said. "The reason it's a great win is that I have such respect for Auburn and the job (coach) Bruce Pearl has done. This was a good environment for us."
Gordon 3-7 2-2 8, Fletcher 1-2 2-2 4, Collier 3-6 2-2 8, King 9-14 5-7 27, Scott 8-10 8-10 24, Akyazili 0-1 0-0 0, Talton 2-2 0-0 5, Miller 2-4 0-0 4, Fortune 3-8 2-3 11. Totals 31-54 21-26 91.
Canty 9-17 0-0 24, Dunans 5-8 4-6 14, Bowers 1-5 2-3 5, Harris 9-20 4-7 23, Lang 2-3 0-0 6, Spencer 3-6 2-4 8, Brown 1-3 0-1 2, Shamsid-Deen 1-3 0-1 2, Granger 0-1 0-0 0, Waddell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-67 12-22 84.
Halftime — Auburn 46-42. 3-point goals — Colorado 8-15 (King 4-6, Fortune 3-7, Talton 1-1, Collier 0-1), Auburn 10-24 (Canty 6-12, Lang 2-3, Bowers 1-1, Harris 1-2, Dunans 0-1, Shamsid-Deen 0-1, Granger 0-1, Waddell 0-1, Brown 0-2). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Colorado 38 (Scott 9), Auburn 30 (Harris 12). Assists — Colorado 13 (Collier 5), Auburn 13 (Canty 7). Total fouls — Colorado 23, Auburn 22. A — 7,241.