David R. Jennings Staff Photographer
David R. Jennings / Staff Photographer
What went right: CU’s point guards were on-point, as Dom Collier, Xavier Talton, and Thomas Akyazili combined to contribute 26 points and 12 assists with only two turnovers.
What went wrong: The Buffs’ perimeter defense was suspect, with Oregon making 12-of-21 3-pointers, and starting forward Wes Gordon tallied just two points and two rebounds after suffering a sprained thumb.
Star of the game: Senior forward Josh Scott. With the bench making big contributions, Scott quietly posted his fourth consecutive double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. He also had three assists and two blocked shots.
What’s next?: CU returns to the road this week with a date at Washington on Wednesday at 8 p.m. MST.
Xavier Talton and Tre’Shaun Fletcher each struggled through what arguably were their worst games of the season earlier on the Colorado Buffaloes’ homestand.
On Sunday, those frustrations were long forgotten. Both players turned in stellar performances while leading a dominant effort by the CU bench, paving the way for a thrilling 91-87 win against Oregon in a Pac-12 Conference showdown at the Coors Events Center.
CU’s bench accounted for basically half the team’s offense with 45 points.
“I think it’s just really about being in the gym and constantly working on your game,” Talton said. “The coaches are always telling us to practice how you’re going to play. Just being in the gym really just helps you get confidence and build it up.”
Talton had not scored more than three points in any of the previous seven games before breaking out against the Ducks, knocking down his first three shots before finishing with a season-high 13 points while adding three assists. Talton’s 4-for-4 mark at the free throw line improved his overall season mark to an impressive 18-for-19.
Fletcher, whose only stats were an 0-for-3 mark with three turnovers and two fouls in CU’s previous game against Oregon State, scored 14 points to post his first double-digit scoring effort since Dec. 6 at Colorado State. Fletcher hit 7-of-8 free throws.
Sophomore forward Tory Miller and freshman guard Thomas Akyazili also provided huge contributions off the bench. With starting forward Wes Gordon slowed after suffering a sprained thumb, Miller more than picked up the slack, going 4-for-6 from the field and at the free throw line to finish with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Akyazili turned in another efficient all-around effort with six points, three assists, three rebounds, and four steals in 18 minutes.
“That was big-time. I’m really happy for these guys,” said starting forward Josh Scott, whose fourth consecutive double-double was overshadowed by the play of the reserves. “They work really hard. They work at their game. I know it’s not going to be every night we get this sort of thing, but I’m pretty happy when these guys play really well. It makes us an even more dangerous team.”
CU led 46-41 at the half but trailed by five points after Oregon put together an 11-0 run early in the second half. A game that saw 15 lead changes overall remained tied at 78-78 after Oregon’s Dwayne Benjamin hit his third straight 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 25 seconds remaining.
The Buffs responded with four consecutive points from Fletcher and, after a lone Oregon free throw, Akyazili found Scott for a 3-point play that gave the Buffs a six-point edge with 1:35 to play. CU hit enough free throws the rest of the way to keep the Ducks at bay and take a jolt of momentum on the road this week for games against Washington and Washington State.
“It was a big-time win for our program against a very, very quality team,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “They’ve got good players, well-coached. When you put this one in the win column, you feel like you’ve done something. I’ve told our guys all year I’m not sure we’ve beaten a bona fide, legitimate NCAA tournament team this year, but tonight we did.”