What went right: The Buffs held ASU to its worst shooting performance of the season and also held the nation's fourth-best scoring offense 16 points under its regulation average.
What went wrong: Though the team was able to overcome it this time, CU endured another slow start, with the Sun Devils jumping to an 11-0 lead.
Star of the game: Namon Wright. There was plenty of candidates, but Wright shared the team lead with 19 points while shooting 7-for-12 from the field 3-for-4 at the free throw line. Wright also grabbed a season-best seven rebounds and didn't commit a turnover in 31 minutes.
What's next: The Buffs host another top-15 team on a short turnaround, as No. 14 Arizona visits the Coors Events Center Saturday (noon, Pac-12 Network).
As the Colorado men's basketball team stumbled through losses in five of its previous six games, including two lopsided defeats to begin Pac-12 Conference play, it has been easy to dismiss the slide as a necessary stumbling block for a team relying heavily on young, unproven talent.
Along the way, coach Tad Boyle readily admits he has been tougher on his three veterans — seniors George King and Dom Collier, as well as junior Namon Wright — for being unable, so far, to lead the youngsters through critical moments in close games.
That changed in a dramatic and wholly unexpected manner Thursday night.
With those three veterans leading the way alongside freshman McKinley Wright, the Buffs pulled off one of the stunners of the college basketball season, overcoming yet another terrible start to knock off fourth-ranked Arizona State with a 90-81 overtime victory at the Coors Events Center.
It is the sixth time in Boyle's eight seasons at the helm the Buffs have defeated a ranked foe at home. It was CU's first victory against a top-five opponent since a win against No. 5 Texas on Feb. 26, 2011. It also was the highest-ranked opponent the Buffs have knocked off since topping a third-ranked Texas team on Feb. 4, 2003.
"I've really been hard on Dom Collier, George King, and Namon Wright because they have not been, in my opinion, holding up their end of the bargain in terms of what they're bringing to this team over the last three, four weeks," Boyle said. "Tonight, they did. Dom Collier stepped up. Six assists, one turnover, made big shots, played aggressive. Namon, aggressive. Didn't turn the ball over one time. Namon had zero assists and five turnovers on the Oregon trip. Tonight he had one assist and no turnovers. We'll take that every night from Namon."
As has been the case in recent weeks the Buffs once again stumbled out of the gate, falling behind 11-0 three and a half minutes into the game before pecking away at the ASU lead. CU finally took the lead by scoring seven consecutive points during a 13-2 run in the second half, with Namon Wright capping the burst with an emphatic fast-break dunk off an assist from Collier.
The Buffs led by six points with 1 minute, 17 seconds remaining in regulation after a pair of McKinley Wright free throws but couldn't hold off the Sun Devils, who sent the game into overtime on a putback basket by Mickey Mitchell with five seconds left.
CU immediately took the advantage in the extra session, starting off overtime with a rebound basket from McKinley Wright before fellow freshman Tyler Bey took a charge from ASU star Tra Holder. King then knocked down a 3-pointer, his fourth of the game, and CU never trailed in overtime. Namon Wright, King, and Bey combined to knock down 7 of 8 free throws in the final 53.7 seconds to ice the win.
"We played with a lot of energy, a lot of effort. We stuck to the game plan," King said. "We never got down on ourselves. Never hung our heads. We stayed positive the whole game and I think that's why the outcome is what it is."
It was an impressive all-around team effort for CU, which received 19 points apiece from both Wrights. King finished with 18 points and also grabbed a team-leading nine rebounds. Collier enjoyed his finest game of the season, scoring 11 points and recording six assists with only one turnover in 25 minutes.
Dallas Walton grabbed seven rebounds, one shy of his season-high, and also recorded three blocked shots. Bey had eight points and grabbed seven of his eight rebounds after halftime.
ASU entered the game ranked fourth in the nation in scoring at 90.7 points a game but was held to 74 points in regulation. The Sun Devils shot a season-low .355 from the field.
"I talked about after that Oregon State game (last week) that our energy was just shot the whole game," McKinley Wright said. "In order for us to have fun and win games we've got to have high energy. We've got to match teams' energy. Tonight we did a great job of coming out and matching their energy."
COLORADO 90, No. 4 ARIZONA ST. 81, OT
ARIZONA ST. (12-2, 0-2)
White 5-12 0-2 10, Mitchell 3-4 2-3 8, Holder 8-20 6-7 24, Evans 3-15 5-6 11, Justice 4-12 4-4 16, Lake 0-0 0-0 0, Lawrence 0-0 1-2 1, Shibel 0-2 0-0 0, Salzman 0-0 0-0 0, Martin 4-11 0-0 11, Fogerty 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-76 18-24 81.
COLORADO (9-6, 1-2)
Walton 0-4 2-5 2, King 5-13 4-6 18, Brown 2-5 1-2 5, M.Wright 8-15 3-4 19, Bey 2-2 4-5 8, Siewert 1-3 4-4 7, Collier 4-7 0-0 11, Nikolic 0-1 1-2 1, N.Wright 7-11 3-4 19, Schwartz 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-62 22-32 90.
Halftime — Arizona St. 34-29. End Of Regulation — Tied 74. 3-Point Goals — Arizona St. 9-34 (Justice 4-10, Martin 3-4, Holder 2-9, Shibel 0-2, Evans 0-9), Colorado 10-26 (King 4-9, Collier 3-5, N.Wright 2-3, Siewert 1-2, Walton 0-1, Nikolic 0-1, Brown 0-2, M.Wright 0-3). Fouled Out -— Holder, Mitchell. Rebounds — Arizona St. 40 (White 11), Colorado 43 (King 9). Assists — Arizona St. 11 (Mitchell 4), Colorado 15 (Collier 6). Total Fouls — Arizona St. 27, Colorado 20.