What went right: CU continued to show resiliency in hostile arenas, making key defensive adjustments at halftime to wipe out a 13-point deficit. The Buffs also went 18-for-21 at the free throw line.
What went wrong: CU's defense was suspect early along the 3-point arc, with CSU going 7-for-10 in the first half.
Star of the game: Wesley Gordon. The junior's first two 3-pointers of the season ignited CU's second-half rally, and he finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocked shots.
What's next?: The Buffs have their longest lull of the young season before hosting BYU Saturday night at 6 p.m.
FORT COLLINS — The home team was effortlessly dropping one 3-pointer after another, and the energetic partisan crowd of green-and-gold was letting the Colorado Buffaloes know all about it.
The response? A collective shrug of the shoulders by the CU men's basketball team that said, "We got this."
Displaying a confidence and resiliency that quickly is evolving into a trademark of coach Tad Boyle's team, the Buffs put together a stirring second-half rally Sunday afternoon at Moby Arena, stunning the rival Colorado State Rams with an 88-77 victory in the teams' annual rivalry battle.
CU trailed by 13 points at halftime but outscored the Rams 49-25 after the break.
"We came out and decided to switch them one through five (on defense) in the second half," Boyle said. "If they were going to beat us, you're going to beat us with contested two-point shots in the lane. You're not going to beat us with 3s. Our big guys did a really good job in the second half of making their guards make tough shots. Our defense really stepped up."
CSU threatened to blow out the Buffs early, making 7-of-10 3-point shots while building a 52-39 lead at the break.
What unfolded after halftime was reminiscent of the Buffs' first victory of the season at Auburn, when CU erased an early 15-point deficit before pulling away down the stretch. While the Buffs began that rally late in the first half, CU pounced immediately after the break at CSU.
The Buffs opened the second half with a 15-1 run, outscoring the hosts 21-3 over the first seven minutes of the second half. The game remained tied at 68-68 with seven minutes remaining, but CU outscored the Rams 20-9 the rest of the way, with the final three of those CSU points coming on a meaningless 3-pointer in the waning seconds.
After the torrid start, CSU went 5-for-13 from 3-point range in the second half.
"Last year we didn't have a very good taste in our mouths when they came and us at our house," CU senior forward Josh Scott said. "Our guards took it upon themselves to get stops. The game was won by them — they got stops."
Junior forward Wesley Gordon sparked the second-half surge with one of his finest performances in a CU uniform, going 3-for-4 from the floor and finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocked shots. Gordon had three points and two rebounds at halftime.
Scott led four CU players in double-digit points with his best showing against the Rams in his career, recording 21 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Fortune struggled from 3-point range (0-for-5) but did a commendable job of getting to the rim, going 6-for-6 at the free throw line before finishing with 16 points and six assists.
CSU guard John Gillon went 5-for-5 from both the field and the free throw line while scoring 16 points in the first half, but the Buffs held him scoreless after the break.
"We were definitely there before in the Auburn game," Fortune said. "It hurt at halftime, and it hurt this halftime too. We just all came together and said we needed to play harder and do the smart things to win. Just play with pride and playing energy. We know this is one of the biggest games of the year and we didn't want to lose."