What went right: The Buffs once again were strong in the second half, holding ASU to a .382 mark from the field after the break while hitting 56 percent of their own second-half shots. CU also outrebounded the Sun Devils 39-33.
What went wrong: CU still struggled on 3-pointers, finishing 5-for-18. However, the Buffs’ 4-for-9 mark in the second half proved critical.
Star of the game: Co-stars this time for McKinley Wright and Tyler Bey, who carried the Buffs’ depleted rotation. Wright went 9-for-12 and finished with a season-high 24 points along with eight assists. Tyler Bey posted his ninth double-double of the season with 22 points and a career-best 17 rebounds.
What’s next: The Buffs complete their homestand Sunday against Arizona (6 p.m., ESPNU).
For a team that was expecting to boast an impressive array of depth throughout the 2018-19 season, the year has turned out to be one long battle of attrition for the Colorado men’s basketball team.
It continued Wednesday night against Arizona State as the Buffaloes lost forward Evan Battey for the remainder of the game late in the first half, saw D’Shawn Schwartz exit early in the second half with a bloody nose, and suffered through foul trouble from shooting guard Shane Gatling.
Yet the suddenly resourceful and battle-tested Buffs responded once again, outplaying the visiting Sun Devils in the second half to post a 77-73 Pac-12 Conference win at the CU Events Center. It was the fourth consecutive win for the Buffs, who improved to 15-9 overall and pulled even in the conference at 6-6.
The win marks the first time the Buffs have won four straight conference games since joining the Pac-12, and CU owns a four-game winning streak in conference play for the first time since a five-game win streak during the 2005-06 season. It also is the first time in program history the Buffs have been four games under .500 in conference play only to battle back to a .500 mark.
“What a hard-fought win by a group of guys, you can just sense them coming together as a group and galvanizing around each other,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Because that was a good team we beat tonight. We did it without Evan Battey in the second half. We did it without Shane Gatling for most of the game in foul trouble. Makeshift lineups. We had to play big some. Our guys just found a way. We played with great toughness. We outrebounded a very, very good Arizona State team who crushed us on the boards back in Tempe when we saw them in January.”
Much like last week’s win at USC, the contest was a back-and-forth affair that featured nine ties and seven lead changes. It was the Buffs who played with more mettle after halftime, holding ASU to a .382 shooting mark after the break while going 14-for-25 (.560) after halftime. The Sun Devils also entered the contest ranked second in rebounding margin in league games at plus-4.7, yet the Buffs were able to compile a 39-33 rebounding edge.
The Buffs were outrebounded 42-28 in a loss at ASU last month.
“I wanted to rebound for my teammates, on defense especially because Arizona State, they’re a good offensive rebounding team,” CU sophomore forward Tyler Bey said. “They win a lot of games just off that.”
Bey was the focal point of the Buffs’ advantage on the glass, finishing with a career-best 17 rebounds while also going 9-for-13 with 22 points. Point guard McKinley Wright, playing with an ailing left shoulder that will require offseason surgery, went 9-for-12 from the field before finishing with a game-high 24 points along with eight assists and six rebounds
The Buffs lost Battey late in the first half to a lower back issue after he provided a spark off the bench, going 3-for-5 with eight points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal in almost 11 minutes. Gatling, who entered the game as CU’s leading scorer in Pac-12 play at 12.7 points per game, was held to two points through the first 33-plus minutes while battling through foul trouble. Yet he hit a big 3-pointer late and scored seven of his nine points in the final six and a half minutes.
“Coach always stresses we don’t have a go-to man. The go-to man is the open man,” Wright said. “I believe in every one of these guys. These guys believe in me. We just try to get the ball in good spots to make open shots, finish at the rim, whatever it is. We’re there for each other.”
COLORADO 77, ARIZONA ST. 73
ARIZONA ST. (16-8, 7-5 Pac-12)
White 5-10 0-1 10, Cheatham 4-9 3-5 12, Dort 5-13 8-9 21, Edwards 1-7 2-4 4, Martin 4-10 0-3 9, Cherry 3-6 0-0 8, Lawrence 3-4 0-0 9, Lake 0-0 0-0 0, Valtonen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-59 13-22 73.
COLORADO (15-9, 6-6 Pac-12)
Siewert 2-10 0-0 6, M.Wright 9-12 5-6 24, Gatling 2-5 4-4 9, Bey 9-13 4-6 22, Schwartz 2-7 1-3 6, Strating 0-0 0-0 0, Battey 3-5 2-2 8, Kountz 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 28-57 16-21 77.
Halftime — 32-32. 3-point goals — Arizona St. 10-23 (Lawrence 3-4, Dort 3-6, Cherry 2-5, Cheatham 1-1, Martin 1-3, Edwards 0-4), Colorado 5-18 (Siewert 2-8, M.Wright 1-3, Schwartz 1-3, Gatling 1-4). Fouled out — Cherry. Rebounds — Arizona St. 33 (Cheatham 10), Colorado 39 (Bey 17). Assists — Arizona St. 11 (Martin 6), Colorado 16 (M.Wright 8). Total fouls — Arizona St. 20, Colorado 16. A — 6,273.