LAS VEGAS — Derrick White did the bulk of the damage in the biggest postseason comeback in Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball history.
Yet he hardly was the only senior who got in on the fun during the second half.
Xavier Johnson and Josh Fortune also made critical plays for the Buffs, who erased a 19-point first-half deficit and a 14-point halftime disadvantage to defeat Washington State 73-63 Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference tournament.
“We just knew it was a must-win to move on. It was either win or go home,” Johnson said. “We just wanted to come out in the second half and get the win.”
Johnson scored 12 of his 19 points after halftime while also finishing with six rebounds, two steals, and just one turnover in 33 minutes. He provided a couple of the biggest highlights during the Buffs’ second-half surge, knocking down a 3-pointer with just under nine minutes remaining that gave CU its first lead since the opening minute. Moments later Johnson took a pass from Fortune for a fast-break dunk and 3-point play that gave the Buffs a seven-point edge with 6:16 to go.
For Fortune, his performance helped alleviate just a little bit of the sting of what has been a frustrating senior season. A 3-point ace who entered the game with a .297 mark from long range, Fortune connected on perhaps his biggest 3-pointer of the year off a pass from White with just over two minutes remaining, turning a two-point CU lead into a five-point cushion. That shot also started a game-ending 11-3 run for the Buffs.
Fortune recorded seven points, five rebounds, two assists, and just one turnover in 25 minutes.
“It obviously was a really big three for us to spread the gap that we had,” Fortune said. “I just wanted to play with confidence and help the team.”
Suspended freshman guard Bryce Peters did not make the trip to Las Vegas. Coach Tad Boyle said Peters’ status hasn’t changed, explaining it was best for Peters to remain in Boulder to attend classes…Tory Miller matched a season-high with nine rebounds…Johnson increased his career scoring total to 1,430 points, moving into 11th-place all-time in CU history…The Buffs’ 14-point halftime deficit was the largest deficit overcome by any team in a Pac-12 tournament game since 2009…CU improved to 10-4 all-time in the Pac-12 tournament…WSU’s Josh Hawkinson was named the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year on Wednesday.