The Elam Ending featured in The Basketball Tournament nearly proved disastrous for Team Colorado in a narrow first-round win Friday night.
On Saturday afternoon, roughly 15 hours later, the team of former Colorado basketball stars played the tournament’s unique finishing format to its advantage. Just not quite well enough.
Despite several chances at a basket that would have clinched a comeback win, Team Colorado was eliminated from the $2 million, winner-take-all competition in an 83-81 loss in Wichita against Golden Eagles, a squad comprised largely of Marquette recruits.
It was the second consecutive second-round defeat for Team Colorado, which reached The Basketball Tournament title game in 2016.
In the Elam Ending, a target point total is set for the win by adding eight points to the tally of the winning team with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. At that point, the former Buffs trailed 75-69, setting the winning score at 83.
Team Colorado had not led since a brief one-point lead early in the second quarter but immediately came alive when the Elam Ending was activated. The former Buffs reeled off a 10-1 run capped by a 3-pointer from Marcus Relphorde that gave Team Colorado a 79-76 lead.
Two free throws by Shannon Sharpe gave Team Colorado an 81-78 lead and put the former Buffs within one basket of a third Sweet 16 berth in four years. Golden Eagles cut its deficit to 81-80 but Team Colorado enjoyed three looks at a game-clinching basket, including a putback chance by Relphorde inside.
After Relphorde’s miss, Golden Eagles’ Elgin Cook — not a Marquette alum, but a Milwaukee native familiar to Buffs fans from his collegiate career at Oregon — knocked down his fifth 3-pointer to end the former Buffs’ annual summer run.
Head coach Nate Tomlinson and general manager Josh Repine both have stated this likely would be the final Team Colorado run for a number of veterans that helped make the squad an annual fixture at The Basketball Tournament, and if so they were leaned upon heavily by Tomlinson, particularly in the second half. Each player in the starting lineup — Copeland, Sharpe, Relphorde, Richard Roby, and Marcus Hall — played at least 25 minutes.
Team Colorado outshot Golden Eagles .545 to .441, but the Marquette alums connected on 13 3-pointers against just seven for the former Buffs. A few careless mistakes by Team Colorado proved costly, as 11 turnovers led to a 13-4 advantage for Golden Eagles in points off turnovers.
Hall went 7-for-12 and finished with a team-leading 18 points to go with seven rebounds and three assists. Relphorde and Copeland scored 17 points apiece, while Roby added 16.