EUGENE, Ore. — This Colorado team refuses to make things easy on itself. And for some reason, the Buffaloes don’t bring their A-game until they have a mountain to climb.
Yet in this case, the aesthetics were irrelevant. Backed into what essentially was a must-win situation to keep alive any hopes at making a charge at an NCAA Tournament berth, CU rallied from a 15-point first half deficit to pick up its biggest win of the season, stunning Oregon 82-78 at Knight Arena on Tuesday night.
With the win, CU avoided its first three-game losing streak since the end of the 2019-20 season, and it ended a six-game losing streak at Oregon. The Buffs also tied the fifth-largest comeback win in a true road game in program history.
“We’re a resilient group, I feel like. We never fold,” CU point guard Keeshawn Barthelemy said. “Regardless of the circumstances or anything that’s going on in the game, we just keep fighting. We’re a competitive group, and our competitiveness helped us. In the beginning, they were making a lot of tough shots. We knew at some point it was going to stop. We just dug in and got some stops and did what we had to do.”
Oregon hit six of its first seven shots, including three 3-pointers, while sprinting to a 20-5 lead less than six minutes into the contest.
The fast start by the Ducks obviously wasn’t ideal but, much like CU’s rally from a 17-point deficit that fell just short three days earlier against UCLA, the Buffs didn’t buckle. CU kept pecking away throughout the remainder of the first half, and a Jabari Walker 3-pointer off an offensive rebound from Luke O’Brien kept the Buffs within five points at halftime.
CU used a 10-2 run midway through the second half to surge ahead, taking its first lead on a 3-pointer from Evan Battey. Barthelemy was clutch during that run, scoring on a driving bucket while delivering assists on each of the run’s other three field goals. The Buffs pushed their lead to 77-70 on a pair of Barthelemy free throws with 47.3 seconds left.
CU committed the final three of its 17 turnovers in the final two minutes, keeping the door open for Oregon. The Ducks got within three points on a 3-pointer from De’Vion Harmon with 11 seconds left, but Battey hit 1 of 2 free throws with 4.8 to ice the win.
“Our guys are pumped. And they should be. That was a good win,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to be a battle. They came out on fire and we just kept talking about getting stops.”
Walker led the way with his ninth double-double of the season and the 11th of his career, finishing with a career-high-tying 24 points with 11 rebounds. Barthelemy also enjoyed a big night, going 9-for-9 at the free throw line while recording 19 points and four assists.
It was the definition of a team win. Freshman guard KJ Simpson turned in another strong game off the bench with eight points and six assists, which counted as the highest assist total for any CU player this year. O’Brien grabbed three of the Buffs’ eight offensive rebounds, which led to an 18-11 advantage for CU on second-chance points. Sophomore forward Tristan da Silva committed a team-high four turnovers, but he went 5-for-6 with 15 points.
Overall, CU finished 8-for-15 on 3-pointers and went 20-for-22 at the free throw line. The Buffs also outrebounded Oregon 30-22.
“Before the game we said no matter what happens, don’t put our heads down and just keep playing,” Walker said. “We saw the shots they were hitting. It didn’t discourage us because it was over hands, and we knew they weren’t going to keep making shots like that the whole game. We just stayed disciplined.”
What went right: CU outrebounded Oregon 30-22, went 20-for-22 at the free throw line, and matched a season-high with 17 assists. The Buffs also shot .577 in the second half and .500 overall.
What went wrong: CU committed 17 turnovers, its third straight game with at least 16.
Star of the game: Jabari Walker. The sophomore forward had plenty of help on Tuesday, but Walker led the way by going 9-for-11 from the field and 5-for-5 at the free throw line. Walker matched a career high with 24 points and recorded 11 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season.
What’s next: CU’s three-game Pacific Northwest road swing continues Thursday night at Washington (9 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).
Colorado 82, Oregon 78
COLORADO (13-6, 5-4 Pac-12 Conference)
Battey 3-8 1-2 8, Walker 9-11 5-5 24, da Silva 5-6 3-4 15, Barthelemy 5-9 9-9 19, Clifford 1-3 0-0 3, Parquet 0-5 2-2 2, Simpson 3-6 0-0 8, O’Brien 1-4 0-0 3, Hammond 0-1 0-0 0, Loughlin 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-54 20-22 82.
OREGON (12-7, 5-3)
Guerrier 8-15 3-3 22, Dante 2-3 0-0 4, Harmon 4-9 4-5 14, Richardson 5-8 6-7 17, Young 5-15 1-2 11, Williams 1-5 1-2 4, Kepnang 2-3 0-0 4, Soares 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 28-60 15-19 78.
Halftime — Oregon 42-37. 3-point field goals — Colorado 8-15 (Simpson 2-3, da Silva 2-3, Clifford 1-1, O’Brien 1-1, Battey 1-2, Walker 1-2, Parquet 0-1, Barthelemy 0-2), Oregon 7-20 (Guerrier 3-8, Harmon 2-3, Richardson 1-3, Williams 1-4, Young 0-2). Rebounds — Colorado 30 (Walker 11), Oregon 22 (Guerrier 6). Assists — Colorado 17 (Simpson 6), Oregon 11 (Richardson 4). Total fouls — Colorado 13, Oregon 17.