What went right: The Buffs played strong defense in the first half, holding the Tigers to a .219 mark from the floor. CU also went 31-for-41 at the free throw line.
What went wrong: Despite a marked sized advantage, CU managed just a 40-36 advantage on the boards. The Buffs' defensive intensity also waned, as the Tigers shot .576 after halftime.
Star of the game: Deleon Brown. The freshman guard turned in the best game of his young career, scoring 15 points while going 4-for-6 from the floor and 3-for-5 on 3-pointers.
What's next: The Buffs play their final road nonconference game at Air Force Monday night at 7 p.m.
Who would have thought a nondescript post-final exams home date in December against a Division II opponent would give Colorado Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle an opportunity to witness something unprecedented in his seven-season tenure at the helm.
It was an 81-71 win for the Buffaloes on Saturday afternoon against visiting Fort Hays State, which remained within striking distance of an upset throughout the contest thanks to a record-setting shooting performance by Tigers senior Rob Davis.
Afterward, though, the fact the Buffs got back in the win column after last week's tough loss at Brigham Young did nothing to gloss over an effort that left Boyle with a final assessment of "I'm disgusted."
The Buffs outrebounded the much smaller Tigers by a margin of only 40-36 while Davis, after getting held scoreless in the first half, erupted for seven 3-pointers and 29 points in the second half.
That scoring total set a Coors Events Center record for most points in a half, shared previously by Missouri-Kansas City's Tony Dumas, who scored 28 points in the second half of a game against the Buffs on Jan. 12, 1994, and former CU player Cory Higgins. Higgins also recorded a 28-point second half against Colorado State on Dec. 10, 2008.
"I told our team after the game that our coaching staff, we've been here for seven years now...and this team has two things going for it now," Boyle said. "Number one, they own the most disappointing loss in that seven-year span, the Colorado State game a few weeks ago. And now they also can add to that they own the most disappointing win, which is the Fort Hays State game here today.
"I need to apologize to everybody in the building or watching the game or fans of this team for the effort in the second half, because it was atrocious."
Fort Hays connected on just one of its first 15 shots while CU built an 18-2 lead, eventually taking a 39-22 edge into halftime after holding the Tigers to a .219 mark from the floor over the first 20 minutes.
After that, while the Buffs' lead was never in immediate jeopardy, Davis and the upset-minded Tigers refused to go away quietly. CU pushed its lead to 21 points shortly after halftime, but Davis scored 11 points in a 17-4 Fort Hays run that pulled the Tigers within eight.
The Buffs answered with a 12-2 run, getting 10 of those points from freshman Deleon Brown, to reestablish an 18-point lead. Davis rallied the Tigers again, with his seventh 3-pointer of the half followed by a Davis-to-JaQuan Smith dunk pulling the Tigers within 11 points with just over four minutes remaining. Fort Hays eventually got within nine points but was unable to close the gap further down the stretch.
Overall Fort Hays shot .576 (19-for-33) in the second half, with Davis going 11-for-16.
"Coach was telling us we didn't put 40 minutes together. We put 20 minutes together, maybe," CU junior George King said. "The second half obviously we didn't guard as well as we're capable of, and the score showed."
Brown, Xavier Johnson, and Josh Fortune all finished with 15 points to pace the Buffs' offense. Guard Derrick White added 10 points, six assists, and no turnovers in 31 minutes.
It will be a short turnaround for CU to correct its defensive woes with a trip to Air Force on deck Monday night. Though the Tigers were outrebounded overall, their 9-7 edge in offensive rebounds helped Fort Hays to an 11-4 advantage in second-chance points.
"(Fort Hays) missed a lot of open shots in the first half," Boyle said. "You get that false sense of security that you're guarding, when you're really not guarding. All of the sudden those shots start going in...well guess what? We have to dictate defensively. If we can't dictate against Fort Hays, I don't know how the hell we'll dictate against Utah or Arizona State or Arizona or anyone in the Pac-12."
Colorado 81, Fort Hays State 71
At Coors Events Center
Fort Hays State (7-4)
Gillum 7-11 0-1 15, Smith 3-8 0-0 6, Kinnamon 0-2 1-2 1, Davis 11-20 0-1 29, O'Neil 3-9 0-0 8, Nicholson 0-4 0-0 0, Holmes 0-1 4-4 4, Stephens 0-1 2-2 2, Werth 1-3 0-0 2, Sabic 0-1 0-1 0, Kite 0-0 2-2 2, Reed 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 26-65 9-13 71.
Gordon 2-3 3-3 7, Johnson 5-8 5-7 15, White 1-4 8-8 10, King 2-8 3-3 7, Fortune 5-9 2-2 15, Akyazili 0-1 1-6 1, Brown 4-6 4-6 15, Lombard 0-1 0-0 0, Miller 2-5 5-6 9, Peters 0-1 0-0 0, Siewert 1-4 0-0 2, Repine 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 31-41 81.
3-point goals — Fort Hays State 10-29 (Davis 7-10, O'Neil 2-8, Gillum 1-1, Kinnamon 0-2, Nicholson 0-3, Holmes 0-1, Stephens 0-1, Werth 0-1, Reed 0-1); Colorado 6-22 (Brown 3-5, Fortune 3-6, Johnson 0-1, White 0-2, King 0-4, Peters 0-1, Siewert 0-2, Repine 0-1). Total fouls — Fort Hays State 28, Colorado 16. Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Fort Hays State 36 (Smith 8); Colorado 40 (Gordon 7). Assists — Fort Hays State 13 (Kinnamon 4); Colorado 15 (White 6).