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CU men’s basketball: Buffs send seniors off in style against ASU

Colorado's Josh Scott goes to the basket against Arizona State's Eric Jacobsen during Sunday's game at the Coors Events Center in Boulder. Colorado won 79-69. More photos:
David R. Jennings / Daily Camera
Colorado’s Josh Scott goes to the basket against Arizona State’s Eric Jacobsen during Sunday’s game at the Coors Events Center in Boulder. Colorado won 79-69. More photos:

Fast break

What went right: The Buffs shot .521 from the field — their best mark in conference play — and outrebounded Arizona State 35-25.

What went wrong: The Sun Devils stayed close thanks to a solid .480 shooting performance.

Star of the game: Josh Fortune. The junior guard made 6-of-8 shots before finishing with a team-leading 17 points. Fortune also tallied four assists, three steals, and zero turnovers in 23 minutes.

What’s next?: It will be a slow week for the Buffs before traveling to Utah for the regular season finale on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Josh Scott promised himself he would save his tears for the team’s postseason banquet.

So, while Sunday was a day to celebrate the careers of Scott and his three fellow seniors for the Colorado Buffaloes, it was a day first and foremost about winning. In that regard CU took care of business, outlasting Arizona State for a 79-69 victory in the home finale at the Coors Events Center.

Making certain to avoid a letdown following Wednesday’s win against No. 9 Arizona that significantly bolstered CU’s NCAA tournament credentials, the Buffs improved to 16-1 at home and matched a program record with their 21st regular-season victory.

“It kind of hit me when I got my name announced for the last time,” Scott said. “That kind of hit me that it’s the last time I’m going to have my name called out at the Coors Events Center. For me, it was one of those moments that I kind of held the whole team together and yelled, ‘I love you guys.’ I’m glad that we came out with the win. Not just for me, but the other seniors as well.”

The contest featured a peculiar rhythm, with each team wresting control of the momentum for significant stretches. CU built a 14-point lead during the first half but led by only three at the break due mostly to a 13-1 run put together by the Sun Devils.

The Buffs opened the second half with a 7-2 burst highlighted by 3-pointers from Dom Collier and George King, but Arizona State was able to pull even at 45-45 after scoring eight unanswered points.

CU, though, responded with an 8-0 run of its own, a stretch sparked by a pair of long jumpers from Josh Fortune. The Buffs never trailed the rest of the way, protecting single-digit leads until the final margin.

The Buffs shot a robust .521 from the field — their best mark in Pac-12 Conference play — and knocked down 11-of-21 shots from 3-point range. CU also outrebounded the Sun Devils 35-25 and limited its turnovers to just eight, but Arizona State was able to stay close due to its second-best shooing effort in league play (.480).

Tra Holder led Arizona State with 16 points and Gerry Blakes added 15, scoring all of them in the first half.

“We weren’t great defensively. We had some breakdowns,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Part of it was us, and part of it was they made some tough shots.

“We just couldn’t shake them because they have good players, too. Gerry Blakes had 15 at halftime and we did a great job on him in the second half. Part of it was Arizona State, and part of it was Colorado not doing not doing what we’re supposed to do.”

Seniors Brett Brady, Eli Stalzer, and Xavier Talton were recognized alongside Scott during a pregame ceremony before Scott recorded 15 points, six rebounds, and two assists in his home finale.

Fortune paced the offense with 17 points and four assists, knocking down 6-of-8 shots overall and 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Tre’Shaun Fletcher enjoyed a superb game off the bench, going 4-for-4 from the floor and finishing with 13 points.

CU junior Wesley Gordon scored only five points but paced the Buffs’ advantage on the glass with a game-high 11 rebounds.

“We haven’t always played well (at home) but we’ve usually played with pretty good energy and effort,” Boyle said. “We’ve been a consistently good team at home. Now that’s something we have to get better at on the road, and we’re not the only team that can say that in college basketball.”

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