FORT COLLINS — The Colorado Buffaloes survived. Barely. And that might be the only positive the Buffs can take from their 129th rivalry battle against Colorado State.
In a contest that at times resembled a test of wills between two clubs simply trying to play the less ugly brand of basketball, it was the No. 24-ranked Buffs that escaped with a 56-48 win Friday night at Moby Arena.
CU snapped a two-game losing streak that very nearly reached three thanks to a season-high 21 turnovers. It likely would have been a devastating defeat if not for the hot shooting off the bench by senior guard Shane Gatling and a 40-minute defensive effort more akin to the clamps the Buffs were shackling to foes early in the season.
The Buffs’ giveaways led to 17 more shot attempts for the Rams, but CU managed to hold the hosts to a .290 mark from the field with a 2-for-22 showing on 3-pointers. It was the second-lowest percentage by a Buffs’ opponent this season and a return to form for a Buffs defense that had allowed its previous three foes to shoot at least 46 percent.
“I’m not sure how we won that game. Especially after looking at the stat sheet,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “There’s some eye-popping numbers that come off that thing that probably say we didn’t deserve to win that. The reality is we did, because we defended I thought at a very, very high level for 40 minutes.”
CU led by 15 points at halftime and 16 early in the second half when the Rams finally started rolling,reeling off a 19-4 run, including the final 11 points in a row, to pull into a 39-39 tie with 7 minutes, 15 seconds remaining.
While CSU was unable to take advantage of the Buffs’ miscues early, turning CU’s 12 first-half turnovers into just four points, the Rams converted CU turnovers into 10 points during that 19-4 burst.
To the Buffs’ credit, they made the plays when it mattered late, using a Gatling jumper to start a 15-4 run that gave CU breathing room down the stretch. But it certainly wasn’t enough to allay the concerns surrounding an inconsistent team harboring NCAA Tournament expectations.
“I think it’s just the traditional story of us turning the ball over and not really valuing possessions,” said CU junior D’Shawn Schwartz, who grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. “When teams make their runs, that’s what happens. We’ve got to make better plays. We’re trying to figure out the best way to do that. I’m not really sure yet, but we’ll figure it out for sure.”
On a night that saw CU’s top three scorers — Tyler Bey, McKinley Wright IV, and Schwartz — go a combined 6-for-22 with 19 points, Gatling and fellow senior Lucas Siewert picked up the scoring slack off the bench. Gatling went 4-for-6 on 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 20 points, while Siewert scored 12 points alongside six rebounds. That duo also went 6-for-6 at the free throw line.
A rivalry win on the road never is something to dismiss, particularly at the end of the most demanding week of CU’s schedule so far. Yet after the Buffs take the rest of the weekend off, there remains plenty of coaching points for Boyle to focus on when CU begins preparations for Thursday’s home date against Prairie View A&M.
Besides the continuing glut of turnovers, Friday marked the second consecutive game the Buffs have shot better on 3-pointers (.444) than 2-pointers (.333).
“Colorado State had 17 more shot attempts at the basket tonight. Thank goodness we guarded our tails off and played the sort of defense we needed to play to win that game, otherwise we would’ve gotten our doors blown off,” Boyle said. “I thought we should have been up 20 at half. Maybe 25. But we weren’t, because we turned it over.”
What went right: CU went 8-for-18 on 3-pointers and held CSU to a .290 mark from the field. The Buffs also outrebounded the Rams 44-32.
What went wrong: The Buffs committed a season-high 21 turnovers.
Star of the game: Shane Gatling. The senior guard came off the bench to go 4-for-6 on 3-pointers and 7-for-21 overall, finishing with a season-high 20 points. It was the fourth 20-point game of his CU career.
What’s next: The Buffs host Prairie View A&M on Thursday (6:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
No. 24 COLORADO 56, COLORADO ST. 48
Battey 1-1 1-2 3, Wright 1-11 0-0 2, Parquet 0-2 0-0 0, Schwartz 2-7 2-2 8, Bey 3-4 3-8 9, Siewert 3-7 4-4 12, Walton 0-0 0-0 0, Kountz 0-0 2-2 2, Gatling 7-12 2-2 20, Daniels 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-45 14-20 56.
COLORADO ST. (7-6)
Thistlewood 2-8 4-5 9, Carvacho 4-13 1-3 9, Moore 2-8 0-0 5, Stevens 3-7 4-5 10, Martin 0-4 0-0 0, Thomas 1-2 0-0 2, Edwards 2-7 0-0 4, Tonje 0-4 0-0 0, Roddy 4-9 1-1 9. Totals 18-62 10-14 48.
Halftime — Colorado 27-12. 3-point goals — Colorado 8-18 (Gatling 4-6, Siewert 2-3, Schwartz 2-4, Parquet 0-1, Wright 0-4), Colorado St. 2-22 (Moore 1-5, Thistlewood 1-7, Stevens 0-1, Edwards 0-2, Tonje 0-2, Martin 0-2, Roddy 0-3). Fouled out — Roddy. Rebounds — Colorado 44 (Schwartz 9), Colorado St. 32 (Carvacho 10). Assists — Colorado 13 (Wright, Daniels 3), Colorado St. 9 (Stevens 3). Total fouls — Colorado 16, Colorado St. 17. A — 6,629 (8,745).