What went right: The turnover-prone Buffs corrected that issue on Wednesday, finishing with just nine. It was just the second single-digit turnover game in the past seven contests.
What went wrong: Not much, though two turnovers in the final 26 seconds easily could have ruined the party.
Star of the game: Josh Scott. In his penultimate game at the Coors Events Center, the senior made 8-of-12 shots in the second half before finishing with 26 points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots.
What’s next?: CU hosts Arizona State in the final home game of the season Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Earlier this week, Colorado Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle was asked to comment on the pending departure of Josh Scott.
It was an obvious question, given the CU stalwart was preparing to play his final two games at the Coors Events Center. Boyle, though, has been in a state of denial.
“I try not to think about it,” he said.
On Wednesday, Scott showed why his coach is ambivalent about thinking of life after his graduation. The senior forward put the Buffs on his ample shoulders and powered CU to a critical 75-72 victory against No. 9 Arizona.
While the win doesn’t automatically secure an NCAA Tournament berth for the Buffs, it certainly puts them in the driver’s seat heading into the home finale Sunday against Arizona State.
The victory snapped a six-game losing streak against the Wildcats and also ended an 0-11 run for the Buffs against ranked opponents.
“We talked about this being a grown-man’s game — go up in the paint, take it to the rim, take it to their chins,” Scott said. “I think we did that. We talked about that and that was part of our game plan. It’s part of our game plan every night, and we need to be consistent with that going forward.”
Scott finished with a season-high 26 points, with his overall mark of 10-for-18 from the floor including an 8-for-12 effort in the second half. Down the stretch, Scott accounted for six of the Buffs’ final seven field goals while also finishing with nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
“He’s doing it on an ankle that’s not 100 percent,” Boyle said. “What that kid is showing down the stretch of his senior year in terms of toughness is incredible. Because he was not at 100 percent tonight. But he played like it. That was an unbelievable performance.
“You look at the stat line…this game is not about the stats. This game is about the grit and the toughness and getting stops when we had to get stops. It was just a great college basketball game to be a part of.”
Scott’s final bucket gave the Buffs a 10-point lead with 3 minutes, 32 seconds remaining, but CU still had to weather some turnover-related foibles in the final moments that left the door open for Arizona.
The Wildcats turned a CU giveaway into a Kaleb Tarczewski dunk that cut CU’s lead to 75-72 with 52 seconds to go. The Buffs suffered two more turnovers in the final minute, including a traveling call on Scott with nine seconds left that gave Arizona a final chance at potential game-tying 3-pointer.
But an attempt by the Wildcats’ Allonzo Trier went awry, and once Dom Collier grabbed the rebound the celebration began with the student section surging on to the Coors Events Center floor. Despite the late turnovers, the turnover-prone Buffs still finished with a manageable total of nine.
While Scott was the undisputed leader of the victory, the Buffs nonetheless enjoyed a number of key performances.
Wesley Gordon recorded eight points to go with a game-high 12 rebounds and a career-high six assists. George King and Josh Fortune combined to make 4-of-7 3-point attempts, with King finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds and Fortune contributing 13 points.
“As you go into the stretch run of February, you need to show that you can beat quality teams,” Boyle said. “We showed tonight we can beat a quality team. This was an NCAA tournament atmosphere. It was an NCAA tournament-level game. And there were two NCAA tournament teams playing tonight.”
COLORADO 75, No. 9 ARIZONA 72
Trier 6-12 1-2 15, Anderson 7-15 5-7 19, Tarczewski 4-6 0-0 8, Jackson-Cartwright 1-2 0-0 2, York 4-14 2-2 11, Allen 4-9 3-4 11, Ristic 3-3 0-0 6, Tollefsen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-62 11-15 72.
Gordon 3-5 2-2 8, Scott 10-18 6-7 26, Talton 1-5 2-2 4, Collier 1-8 1-2 3, King 5-11 1-2 14, Akyazili 0-2 0-0 0, Fletcher 1-4 2-2 5, Miller 1-4 0-0 2, Fortune 5-8 2-3 13. Totals 27-65 16-20 75.
Halftime: Colorado 37-33. 3-Point Goals: Arizona 3-11 (Trier 2-4, York 1-4, Jackson-Cartwright 0-1, Tollefsen 0-1, Allen 0-1); Colorado 5-15 (King 3-6, Fortune 1-2, Fletcher 1-2, Akyazili 0-1, Talton 0-2, Collier 0-2). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: Arizona 38 (Anderson 10), Colorado 38 (Gordon 12). Assists: Arizona 11 (Jackson-Cartwright, York 3), Colorado 11 (Gordon 6). Total Fouls: Arizona 15, Colorado 17. Technical: Arizona Bench. A: 11,309.