DES MOINES, Iowa — Perhaps the most critical one-on-one matchup between the Colorado Buffaloes and UConn was the battle on the wing between the Huskies’ Daniel Hamilton and CU’s George King.
The advantage was all Hamilton.
UConn’s sophomore recorded his fourth double-double in a row and his 13th of the season, sparking a second-half rally by the Huskies in a 74-67 NCAA Tournament first-round victory.
Hamilton finished with 17 points and a team-high 10 rebounds, scoring 13 of those points in the second half. King never got on track, going 2-for-6 from the field before finishing with five points and no rebounds.
“We hit more (shots) and boxed out,” Hamilton said. “We started fast-breaking and getting transition easy layups. And that was the main thing.”
The down finale does not diminish the immense strides King made this season. After taking a redshirt season to hone his game, King returned to lead the Pac-12 Conference in 3-point percentage while ranking second in scoring for CU.
No doubt, King’s continued improvement will be a key factor in the Buffs’ hopes of returning to the tournament next year.
Foul trouble limited starting guard Dom Collier’s effectiveness in the Pac-12 tournament, and fouls again were an issue for the sophomore against UConn. After hitting his first shot, Collier picked up his second foul just 4 minutes, 12 seconds into the game and remained on the bench for the rest of the first half.
Collier played just 27 total minutes in two Pac-12 tourney games for the same reason. He finished Thursday’s season-ending loss with eight points, three assists and one turnover in 19 minutes.
Assistant coach Rodney Billups barely remembers the young man that began his coaching career at CU six years ago. Thursday’s loss marked the end of Billups’ tenure with the Buffs as he takes over as the head man at his alma mater, the University of Denver.
“I came in very green, not knowing what to expect,” Billups said. “I knew a lot about the game, but not how to coach the game or teach the game. Tad (Boyle) along with the assistants that I’ve worked with have been great for my development. My success will always be indebted to them.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper proclaimed Thursday “Buffs and Rams are Dancing Day” in honor of the CU men and CSU women reaching their respective NCAA Tournaments. CSU begins tourney play in Los Angeles on Saturday against South Florida.
CU fell to 10-16 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including 1-4 under Boyle. The Buffs also fell to 0-5 all-time on St. Patrick’s Day. … Forward Wesley Gordon finished the year with 68 blocked shots, the fourth-best single-season mark in team history. …CU’s Josh Fortune finished with five turnovers against UConn — the same total he compiled in the previous seven games combined.