Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Evan Battey’s farewell to the CU Events Center was destined to be an emotional one.
It turned out to be a historic one as well.
The Buffs sent their popular senior out in style on Saturday night, topping No. 2 Arizona 79-63 in a thriller at the CU Events Center. Two nights after one of CU’s most frustrating performances of the season in a loss against Arizona State, the Buffs put it all together while matching the program record for the highest-ranked foe CU has ever defeated.
Colorado also defeated a No. 2-ranked Oklahoma State on Feb. 12, 1992. Before a sold-out crowd of 11,079, the Buffs posted the 14th win against an AP top five team in program history, and the fourth in 12 seasons under head coach Tad Boyle.
“The difference between two nights is sometimes incredible when you coach young people,” Boyle said. “As angry as I was (Thursday) I’m as proud tonight. Make no mistake—we beat a really good basketball team. Maybe they were due for a letdown, I don’t know. I think we had something to do with that. Our energy level tonight on offense and defense was off-the-charts good.
“They’re a legit top-five team in the country. Kudos to our guys. And on Senior Night, it’s hard to write a script that’s better than this.”
Solid defense allowed the Buffs to survive an 0-for-11 start from the field to keep the game close throughout the first half. After the Wildcats took an 11-4 lead, the Buffs stormed back with 12 consecutive points. CU remained within one point after Jabari Walker ended the Buffs’ 0-for-8 start from long range with CU’s first 3-pointer, but the Wildcats outscored the hosts 9-5 the rest of the way to take a 37-32 lead at the break.
CU blitzed Arizona after halftime, using an 11-2 run early in the second half to regain the lead. CU pushed its lead to 63-50 with a 9-0 run, but the Wildcats scored seven straight to get back within six points with 5 minutes, 28 seconds left.
Keeshawn Barthelemy, who came off the bench for the first time this season, turned the momentum back to the Buffs for good with a clutch 3-point play with 5:14 remaining, beginning a 12-2 Buffs run that secured the win.
In January, the Buffs were within four points of Arizona in Tucson, but the Wildcats rolled after halftime. In a similar situation on Saturday, it was the Buffs who were the aggressors in the second half.
“I think Jabari (Walker) said it in the locker room. We’ve been in this situation a couple months ago at Arizona,” CU sophomore Tristan da Silva said. “We said to ourselves, ‘We can’t let this happen again.’ So we went out there and gave it even more than in the first half. It paid off.”
Walker extended his Pac-12-leading total of double-doubles to 15, finishing with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Da Silva went 7-for-10 and scored a game-high 19 points while Barthelemy finished with 15 points.
CU shot .655 after halftime and finished with an overall mark of .484, while Arizona went 1-for-11 on 3-pointers in the second. The Buffs also outrebounded Arizona, the Pac-12’s leader in average rebound margin, 35-33 after getting outrebounded by a season-high 15 in the teams’ previous meeting at Arizona. The Buffs finished 13-for-15 at the free throw line.
The Wildcats also entered the game leading the league in conference games with an overall field goal percentage of .489, but the Buffs held them to a .392 mark.
“I don’t know what to say, really. It’s gratifying and humbling,” Battey said. “We didn’t pass the ball real well (in Thursday’s loss against ASU), we didn’t make plays for each other like we did the previous week on the three-game road sweep. We had to get back to that. Coach (Bill) Grier said it after the Stanford game. He said when you play like that you can beat anybody. Tonight, we played like that.”
What went right: CU shot .655 after halftime (19-for-29) and outrebounded the Pac-12’s leader in rebound margin 35-33.
What went wrong: The Buffs started the game 0-for-11 and missed their first eight 3-point attempts, but the frigid start was offset by the torrid finish.
Star of the game: Jabari Walker. The Buffs received clutch contributions across the rotation in pulling the upset, but Walker posted his Pac-12-leading 15th double-double, finishing with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
What’s next: The Buffs will have a little time to regroup before traveling to Utah for the regular season finale on March 5 (7:30 p.m., ESPNU).
Colorado 79, No. 2 Arizona 63
ARIZONA (25-3, 15-2)
A.Tubelis 3-9 7-8 13, Koloko 1-5 2-5 4, Kriisa 1-6 2-2 5, Terry 2-6 0-0 5, Mathurin 3-11 4-4 12, Larsson 4-6 1-1 9, Kier 3-4 2-2 9, Ballo 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 20-51 18-22 63.
COLORADO (19-10, 11-8)
Battey 4-8 2-3 11, Walker 6-12 2-2 15, da Silva 7-10 4-4 19, Clifford 0-2 0-0 0, Hammond 2-4 0-0 4, Simpson 5-12 2-3 13, Barthelemy 6-13 3-3 15, O’Brien 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 31-64 13-15 79.
Halftime — Arizona 37-32. 3-point field goals — Arizona 5-18 (Mathurin 2-6, Kier 1-2, Terry 1-3, Kriisa 1-6, Larsson 0-1), Colorado 4-15 (da Silva 1-1, Battey 1-3, Simpson 1-3, Walker 1-3, Hammond 0-1, O’Brien 0-1, Barthelemy 0-3). Rebounds — Arizona 33 (A.Tubelis 8), Colorado 35 (Walker 14). Assists — Arizona 11 (Kriisa 5), Colorado 8 (Simpson, Barthelemy 2). Total fouls — Arizona 18, Colorado 21. A — 11,079.