What went right: CU was aggressive in attacking the basket, ultimately finishing with 40 free throw attempts.
What went wrong: Foul trouble plagued several of the Buffs' key players. Tory Miller didn't play the final 10:12 of the first half after picking up two fouls, and point guard Dom Collier fouled out down the stretch of regulation. Without Josh Scott CU was outrebounded 40-36.
Star of the game: George King might have saved the NCAA tourney dreams for CU, hitting a fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer of the first overtime and finishing with a team-leading 21 points. King also matched a career-high with nine rebounds.
What's next?: The Buffs continue the homestand at noon Saturday against Washington.
George King said he'd done something similar once before. It was back in seventh grade, and as a bonus King knocked down the dramatic shot in question on his birthday.
It was a sweet memory, and one any kid would take with him throughout a lifetime. Yet King created an even sweeter memory on Thursday night, one that may have saved the University of Colorado's NCAA tournament dreams from eroding on the dreaded bubble.
King drained an improbable fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer of the first overtime against Washington State, saving CU from a loss against the Pac-12 Conference's last-place team and allowing the Buffs to escape with an 88-81 victory in double overtime.
“That was a big-time win for us. We really needed it,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “We didn't play our best game. I think it's a testament again to how good this league is.
“It was great defense (on King). Thank God George is 6-6, because he needed every inch.”
With leading scorer and rebounder Josh Scott in street clothes due to an ankle injury, the Buffs nearly lost a war of attrition but prevailed thanks to King's heroics and a solid all-around team effort that saw five players score in double figures.
The game was tied 74-74 late in the first overtime when Washington State's Que Johnson drove to the basket, converted, and drew a whistle with 21 seconds left. While one official at first indicated a charge against Johnson, the call was changed to a blocking foul against CU's Tory Miller. Johnson converted the free throw to give Washington State a 77-74 lead.
King made just 1-of-2 free throws at the other end with 10.5 seconds remaining, and Johnson in turn made 1-of-2 at the Cougars' end with eight seconds left to give WSU a 78-75 lead. Johnson's missed free throw left the door open for CU and King delivered, angling for space along the right wing before launching the shot of the year so far for the Buffs.
“When it got halfway there I was thinking it had a chance,” King said. “I told the team before the game that obviously we're missing our best player and we have to do double what we do. Those are big shoes to fill, and it took us two overtimes to do it.
Washington State inched ahead at 80-79 early in the second overtime before the Buffs drew even on a Thomas Akyazili free throw. After a defensive stop, senior guard Xavier Talton found Wesley Gordon for a layup that gave CU an 82-80 edge.
Cougars standout Josh Hawkinson made 1-of-2 free throws to trim CU's lead to one, but Gordon turned in a gritty effort under the glass to convert an offensive rebound, giving the Buffs an 84-81 lead with just under a minute remaining in the second overtime.
Talton knocked down 4-of-4 free throws in the final 30 seconds to give the Buffs breathing room and escape an upset bid by a Washington State team that saw its losing streak get extended to 10 games.
King led the Buffs with 21 points, making 7-of-8 free throws and matching a career-high with nine rebounds. Gordon controlled the paint defensively, finishing with 15 points 12 rebounds, and four blocked shots for his second consecutive double-double and his fourth of the season.
Akyazili shook off a recent scoring slump to post 10 points, a new personal-best in his young career. Josh Fortune suffered a rough night from the field, going 2-for-13 overall and 0-for-5 from 3-point range, but he made 7-of-9 free throws and finished with 11 points. Fortune also recorded four assists, which was one more than he posted in the previous three games combined. Talton finished with 13 points, five rebounds, and three steals.
After committing 38 turnovers in two losses last week, CU committed just eight on Thursday, even with the extra 10 minutes of action. The Buffs turned 18 Washington State turnovers into 24 points.
“Through all the work that (King) has put in we knew he'd be able to make a big shot like that,” Talton said. “After he made it everybody was obviously excited. You feed off that momentum swing our way.”
Scott's status remains day-to-day as the Buffs brace for a quick turnaround before Saturday's visit from Washington (noon, Pac-12 Networks).