Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
What went right: After getting outrebounded for just the fourth time this season on Thursday, CU outrebounded Washington 55-35. The Buffs turned a season-most 20 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points.
What went wrong: CU’s turnover issues resurfaced. The Buffs’ 22 turnovers turned into 27 points for the Huskies.
Star of the game: Wesley Gordon. The redshirt junior recorded his third consecutive double-double, finishing with a career-best 17 points alongside 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.
What’s next?: CU begins a two-game swing through Los Angeles on Wednesday at USC, 9 p.m. MST.
It might not always be the most picturesque form of basketball.
Yet the Colorado Buffaloes can generally be counted on to battle and compete from the opening tipoff to the final buzzer. And it is that reliable trait that allowed CU to turn a potentially disastrous weekend into a huge two-game sweep at home.
Playing without a man that owns the mantle as the team’s leading scorer, leading rebounder, and overall emotional leader for the second consecutive game, CU held off several second-half surges from Washington to hold on for an 81-80 victory Saturday afternoon in a Pac-12 Conference thriller at the Coors Events Center.
“The difference in the game was us outrebounding them by 20. Without a doubt,” said CU coach Tad Boyle, whose team improved to 14-1 at home. “With this team, when we put together a defense and rebounding effort like we did (Saturday), with a turnover effort like we did against Washington State, we’re going to beat anybody in this league.”
Playing their second consecutive game without senior Josh Scott, Wesley Gordon and George King once again led a stellar all-around team effort that helped CU overcome 22 turnovers.
Gordon has played like a man possessed without his frontcourt mate Scott, posting his third consecutive double-double with Scott sidelined for five of those six halves. Gordon finished with a career-best 17 points to go with 13 rebounds. The redshirt junior made 9-of-11 free throws — missing one intentionally while CU tried to milk the final seconds off the clock — while also recording four blocked shots for the second consecutive game.
Fresh off his buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first overtime that spurred the Buffs to their double-overtime win Thursday, King posted the first double-double of his career with 10 points and 10 rebounds against Washington.
King matched a career-best with nine rebounds against Washington State and reiterated there was a concerted effort for other Buffs to get to the glass with Scott nursing his sprained ankle. Josh Fortune also turned in his second-best rebounding performance of the season with nine as CU outrebounded Washington 55-35.
“Josh Scott being out, we’re going to miss 10 rebounds a game,” King said. “I tried to challenge myself to get on the boards a little bit more and rebound, and I did that. I’m a little upset with myself because I should have been doing this all season, but I’ve been caught up in shooting and not crashing the boards…I’ve got to stick my nose under the rim and get rebounds.”
CU led 46-34 at halftime but endured a terrible start to the second half, committing six turnovers in the first 4 minutes, 17 seconds after the break. Washington responded with eight consecutive points in a 13-2 run that closed CU’s lead to 48-47.
Senior guard Xavier Talton stemmed the tide with a 3-pointer, sending the Buffs on a 24-10 surge highlighted by nine consecutive points from freshman Thomas Akyazili. CU pushed its lead to 72-57 but the Huskies still didn’t go away quietly, again cutting the Buffs’ lead to one on an Andrew Andrews 3-pointer with 1:30 to go.
Two free throws from King pushed CU’s edge to 81-78 with 1:09 remaining, and Andrews answered with two of his own to keep UW within a point. But misses by Marquese Chriss and Andrews in the final 10 seconds finally sparked the celebration at the Coors Events Center.
“This is a good league, and we’ve said many, many times that if you don’t play well — and it doesn’t matter if you’re at home or on the road — if you don’t play well, you’re going to get beat,” Boyle said. “We almost got beat Thursday. We almost got beat today. But we didn’t. This team has shown grit. It’s shown toughness all year long.”
COLORADO 81, WASHINGTON 80
Chriss 7-15 4-5 18, Thybulle 6-12 2-4 16, Dickerson 1-3 1-2 3, Murray 5-13 3-4 14, Andrews 5-14 5-5 18, Crisp 1-5 0-0 3, Dime 0-0 2-2 2, Green 2-6 0-2 6, Dorsey 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-69 17-24 80.
Gordon 4-8 9-11 17, Miller 2-4 4-4 8, Talton 1-3 0-0 3, Collier 4-7 2-2 10, King 3-13 4-5 10, Akyazili 4-8 0-0 9, Stalzer 0-0 0-0 0, Fletcher 4-8 0-1 10, Guzonjic 0-1 1-2 1, Fortune 6-17 0-0 13. Totals 28-69 20-25 81.
Halftime — Colorado 46-34. 3-point goals — Washington 9-22 (Andrews 3-6, Thybulle 2-4, Green 2-5, Crisp 1-2, Murray 1-3, Dorsey 0-1, Chriss 0-1), Colorado 5-17 (Fletcher 2-2, Talton 1-2, Akyazili 1-2, Fortune 1-5, Collier 0-2, King 0-4). Fouled out — Akyazili. Rebounds — Washington 35 (Chriss 10), Colorado 55 (Gordon 13). Assists — Washington 12 (Andrews, Murray, Thybulle 3), Colorado 10 (Talton 5). Total fouls_Washington 21, Colorado 20. Technical_Akyazili. A_9,476.