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Second-half surge sends No. 21 CU basketball past Clemson

Tyler Bey posts double-double, wins MVP honors in hometown

Tevin Mack #13 of the Clemson ...
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Tevin Mack #13 of the Clemson Tigers drives against D’Shawn Schwartz #5 of the Colorado Buffaloes during the MGM Resorts Main Event basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 26, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

LAS VEGAS — It wasn’t the prettiest game for the Colorado. Yet it featured a stirring comeback, and the Buffaloes dominated when it mattered most.

After trailing throughout the first 32 minutes of the game, the 21st-ranked Buffs turned it around down the stretch, rallying past Clemson for a 71-67 win Tuesday night in the finale of the MGM Resorts Main Event at T-Mobile Arena.

It was a team win in every sense of the phrase, with four players finishing with double-figure points for No. 21 CU and the Buffs coming up with several clutch defensive plays down the stretch.

“This is going to help us. It’s a quality opponent, and I can’t emphasize how well-coached Clemson is,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Our guys did a good job of not letting them frustrate them. We’ve certainly got a lot of room for improvement at the offensive end of the floor. I’ve known that since the Irvine game and certainly the Wyoming first half and then tonight.

“But, this team has something about it. I think it’s character. I think it’s toughness. I think it’s resiliency. All the things that you have to have to win close games. It’s the first close game we’ve had all year. Arizona State was a little bit. In the second half they made their run and tied it up. The mental toughness that we’ve talked about the last couple years that maybe at times we’ve lacked, we didn’t lack it tonight.”

Clemson led 36-33 at halftime and built a 50-38 lead with 14 minutes, 39 seconds to go before the Buffs stormed back. Four straight points from Evan Battey sparked CU to a 16-3 run, a burst capped by a steal and breakaway dunk by McKinley Wright that gave the Buffs their first lead of the game at 54-53 with 7:59 remaining.

The Tigers scored the next four points and maintained a slight lead until a 9-0 CU run gave the Buffs a six-point edge with 2:36 to go. Clemson remained within two points after a 3-pointer from John Newman with about 2 minutes left but CU held the Tigers scoreless the rest of the way. Clemson had one final chance in the waning seconds with the Buffs leading by two points, but Wright recorded a steal and converted two free throws with 6.2 seconds remaining to ice the win.

It was a tough shooting night for Wright, who finished just 3-for-13, but he also had five assists and each of his two steals came at critical moments.

“Defense travels. Obviously we struggled at the offensive end and myself, I couldn’t get anything going,” Wright said. “But my teammates, they just stuck with me. They all told me to keep my head up. They trusted me. And that’s why coach kept me in the whole second half. He knew I’d bounce back. My teammates had my back. I can’t speak enough about those guys. They trusted me, and I felt that from the bottom of my heart.”

Las Vegas native Tyler Bey was named the tournament MVP, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, and four blocked shots while playing in front of his mom and several other friends and family members. D’Shawn Schwartz added 12 points and five rebounds, while Battey finished with 11 points.

After struggling at the free throw line through the first four games, CU finished 24-for-25 at the line. Bey missed the Buffs’ first free throw attempt of the night, but CU proceeded to make the next 24 in a row.

“It’s special. I got to play in front of my mom, my sister,” Bey said. “It’s a great feeling. I love playing in my city. My family was here. It was an amazing feeling. Especially my mom, she doesn’t get to see me much. For me to get this W out here and compete like this is a great feeling.”

Battey 4-5 3-3 11, Wright 3-13 4-4 10, Kountz 1-2 4-4 6, Schwartz 3-9 4-4 12, Bey 4-8 9-10 18, Siewert 1-4 0-0 3, Strating 0-0 0-0 0, Walton 0-0 0-0 0, Gatling 2-5 0-0 5, Parquet 0-0 0-0 0, Daniels 2-5 0-0 6. Totals 20-51 24-25 71.
Simms 7-14 7-9 23, Newman 4-8 6-6 16, Dawes 2-4 1-1 6, Moore 1-2 0-0 3, Mack 3-11 4-4 11, Tyson 0-5 1-2 1, Jemison 0-0 0-0 0, Scott 3-5 0-0 7. Totals 20-49 19-22 67.
Halftime — Clemson 36-33. 3-Point Goals — Colorado 7-22 (Daniels 2-4, Schwartz 2-5, Bey 1-1, Siewert 1-4, Gatling 1-4, Kountz 0-1, Battey 0-1, Wright 0-2), Clemson 8-21 (Newman 2-3, Simms 2-5, Moore 1-1, Scott 1-1, Dawes 1-2, Mack 1-5, Tyson 0-4). Fouled Out — Newman, Battey. Rebounds — Colorado 32 (Bey 11), Clemson 25 (Mack 10). Assists — Colorado 14 (Wright 5), Clemson 16 (Dawes 6). Total Fouls — Colorado 16, Clemson 21.

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