What went right: CU committed just one turnover after halftime and outrebounded the Lobos 51-38.
What went wrong: The Buffs committed 12 turnovers in the first half, which led to 22 New Mexico points. CU also finished just 5-for-19 on 3-pointers.
Star of the game: Tyler Bey. The sophomore forward took over at both ends of the floor, posting his second consecutive double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds while matching a career-high with five blocks.
What’s next: The Buffs will concentrate on finals while preparing to travel to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic, which begins Dec. 22 against Indiana State.
ALBUQUERQUE — Come March, if the Colorado men’s basketball team manages to play its way into the NCAA Tournament, the Buffaloes might very well be able to look back upon a strange yet exhilarating December night in Albuquerque as the catalyst.
After falling behind by 17 points and committing turnovers at an alarming pace for any team, let alone one supposedly making a concerted effort to curtail such giveaways, coach Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes faced a gut-check moment and responded in a big way, rallying for a 78-75 victory against New Mexico at The Pit.
By the time the game’s second media timeout arrived at the 11 minute, 34 second mark of the first half, the Buffs had already committed seven turnovers that New Mexico turned into 14 points. Those numbers were 12 CU turnovers for 22 New Mexico points at halftime, but the Buffs committed just one turnover after halftime.
It was the third-largest comeback in a true road game in program history, trailing only a 20-point comeback at Texas A&M on Jan. 28, 1998 and the team-record 23-point comeback at Kansas State in 1955. The rally tied for the seventh-largest comeback in team history overall.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Boyle said. “But we gutted out a win when we didn’t play our best offensively. We didn’t shoot the ball well from three. We missed a lot of shots in the lane. We didn’t shoot the ball well from the free throw line and we found a way to win. It was a gutsy win by our guys.”
The Buffs responded to every surge by the host Lobos, cutting the 17-point first-half edge down to three with a 14-0 run. Another flurry of turnovers allowed New Mexico to reestablish a 43-34 lead at halftime, and a 7-0 run by the Lobos early in the second half once again pushed the CU deficit to 14 points with just under 16 minutes remaining.
From that point, however, the Buffs outscored New Mexico 40-23, beginning that run with 10 consecutive points. The Buffs finally took their first lead on a driving layup by McKinley Wright with 4:33 left, and two free throws from Lucas Siewert followed by one from Deleon Brown with 1:35 to go gave the Buffs a six-point edge heading down the stretch.
New Mexico’s Vance Jackson and Anthony Mathis each hit 3-pointers in the final minute to keep the Lobos within striking distance, but Wright answered Jackson’s three with a driving layup and Siewert, immediately after Mathis’ three, hit two more free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining to give CU its final 78-75 lead.
A desperation heave by Jackson at the buzzer wasn’t close, and the Buffs celebrated at The Pit after looking destined for a listless defeat just an hour earlier.
“At halftime we thought we were in control, even though we were down by nine,” Wright said. “We had one turnover in the second half and we rebounded the ball very well. That was it. This win goes to show we can play anywhere in the country. The Pit is a crazy, great environment. I didn’t expect this. The fans here were amazing. But this goes to show we can play anywhere. Fighting through adversity like this is big for us.”
The Buffs entered the game with a 6-20 mark in true road games since the start of the 2016-17 season, but they now have won two consecutive road games going into a slight break before heading to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic.
“Before we came here, coach said this was going to be an NCAA Tournament game,” said Siewert, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. “This is going to help us down the road when it comes to selecting the teams for the tournament. We just had to come here and take care of business.”
Pat Rooney: email@example.com or twitter.com/prooney07
Colorado 78, New Mexico 75
Siewert 3-6 4-4 12, Gatling 2-5 1-2 5, Bey 5-8 5-6 16, Schwartz 0-7 3-4 3, M. Wright 6-13 0-3 12, Strating 1-1 0-0 2, Kountz 1-5 0-0 2, N. Wright 2-4 4-5 8, Brown 2-8 3-6 8, Battey 4-6 1-2 10. Totals 26-62 21-32 78.
NEW MEXICO (4-4)
Pinchuk 2-6 0-2 4, Jackson 4-16 0-2 10, Kuiper 4-8 3-3 11, Drinnon 1-2 0-0 2, Mathis 7-11 2-3 23, Percy 0-1 0-0 0, McGee 3-6 0-0 6, Ezzeddine 3-4 0-0 6, Manigault 3-10 2-4 8, Maluach 2-6 0-0 8. Totals 29-70 7-14 75.
Halftime — New Mexico 43, Colorado 34. 3-point field goals — Colorado 5-19 (Siewert 2-4, Gatling 0-2, Bey 1-2, Schwartz 0-3, M. Wright 0-1, N. Wright 0-2, Brown 1-4, Battey 1-1); New Mexico 10-25 (Jackson 2-6, Kuiper 0-2, Drinnon 0-1, Mathis 7-10, McGee 0-2, Maluach 1-4). Rebounds — Colorado 51 (Bey 12); New Mexico — 38 (Jackson 8). Assists — Colorado 10 (M. Wright 3); New Mexico — 14 (Drinnon 6). Total fouls — Colorado 18, New Mexico 25. A — 10,800.