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Narrow escape: CU Buffs men’s basketball avoids Yale upset bid


The battered faces told the story.

During the postgame interview session, the two Colorado players brought to the podium — forwards Tristan da Silva and J’Vonne Hadley — both sported black-and-blue marks along their eyes.

Neither wound was incurred on Sunday. Da Silva’s was the final vestiges of a finger to the eye he took a week earlier against Boise State. Hadley’s was a fresh mark from practice this week. Still, the satisfied grins both players sported below those bruises essentially summed up the day.

It was a much-needed win, but Colorado had to absorb a few punches along the way.

Following a week’s hiatus, CU edged back over .500 with a 65-62 win against previously unbeaten Yale on Sunday afternoon at the CU Events Center. The Bulldogs gave the Buffs a scare down the stretch, yet for a team hoping the season’s first extended run of home dates leads to more consistent play, it was a small step in the right direction.

“Games in late November at home aren’t supposed to be that nerve-racking,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “We beat a really, really good program. A team that’s really well-coached. We were fortunate to win this game.”

Yale entered the game averaging 82.8 points per game while shooting .513 during its 6-0 start to the season. CU held the Bulldogs to a .364 mark in the first half while building a 10-point halftime lead, and da Silva quickly pushed the lead to a game-high 12 points with a bucket immediately after the break.

Yale, though, didn’t go away, and the torrid shooting of sophomore guard John Poulakidas pretty much was the single reason why. The Buffs used an 8-0 run midway through the second half to push their lead back to 10 points, but the Bulldogs kept chipping away. Poulakidas scored 22 points, and his sixth 3-pointer cut CU’s lead to 61-58 with 1 minute, 59 seconds remaining.

The Bulldogs got within 61-60 on a driving bucket by Bez Mbeng with one minute to play, and after a miss by CU’s Jalen Gabbidon, a former Yale player, the Bulldogs had an opportunity to take the lead in the waning seconds.

However, the Bulldogs threw the ball away on their next possession, and CU’s Julian Hammond III pushed the lead back to three points on a pair of free throws with 10 seconds remaining.

The Bulldogs (6-1) still had a chance to tie the game, but after a timeout the Buffs forced a turnover on the inbounds play. Gabbidon secured the win against his former team by shaking off his recent free throw issues to convert a pair with 5.5 seconds to go.

“I thought our guys showed grit and toughness down the stretch, but there’s still areas we can improve on,” Boyle said. “Putting two halves together, that’s the key. Poulakidas, who’s a hell of a player, who’s a shooter on the scouting report, goes 6-for-8 from three. You cannot let shooters on the scouting report get eight threes off, much less make six of them. We have to make shooters drive.”

While much of CU’s consistency issues have revolved around game-to-game breakdowns, on Sunday the Buffs struggled to put two halves together. After shackling Yale throughout the first half, the Bulldogs shot .556 (15-for-27) after halftime. CU owned a 22-20 rebounding advantage at halftime, but Yale outrebounded the bigger Buffaloes 17-11 the rest of the way.

It left plenty of fodder for Boyle and his staff to pick through as they set their sights on the first round of Pac-12 play, which begins with a Thursday home date against Arizona State.

“We’ve still got to work on consistency, just being rock-solid for 40 minutes,” said Hadley, who returned to the rotation after missing the previous two games due to a shoulder injury. “Just knowing personnel — we let shooters get shots up, and when you let shooters get shots up, they’re making a lot of them.”

Snapshot: CU Buffs vs. Yale

Turning point: After Yale got within two midway through the second half, J’Vonne Hadley and Julian Hammond III scored four points apiece in an 8-0 run that reestablished control for CU.

Buff of the game: Tristan da Silva. The junior forward scored a team-high 20 points and matched a season-high with six rebounds.

What’s next?: The Buffs open Pac-12 Conference play at home on Thursday against Arizona State (6:30 p.m., FS1).

Colorado 65, Yale 62

Yale (6-1)

Knowling 8-11 0-0 16, Kelly 3-11 0-0 6, Mbeng 2-8 0-0 4, Mahoney 1-6 0-0 3, Poulakidas 8-12 0-0 22, Jarvis 4-5 1-1 9, Molloy 0-2 0-0 0, Feinberg 0-1 0-0 0, Gharram 0-2 0-0 0, Basa-Ama 1-2 0-0 2, Wolf 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-60 1-1 62.

Colorado (4-3)

da Silva 8-15 3-5 20, Lovering 1-3 0-0 2, Simpson 4-10 1-2 10, Gabbidon 0-3 2-2 2, Clifford 3-7 0-0 7, O’Brien 0-2 0-0 0, Hadley 5-6 3-5 13, Wright 2-9 0-0 5, Hammond III 2-4 2-2 6, Ruffin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-59 11-16 65.

Halftime — Colorado 38-28. 3-point field goals — Yale 7-20 (Kelly 0-2, Mahoney 1-3, Mbeng 0-2, Poulakidas 6-8, Jarvis 0-1, Molloy 0-2, Feinberg 0-1, Basa-Ama 0-1); Colorado 4-18 (da Silva 1-3, Simpson 1-4, Gabbidon 0-2, Clifford 1-3, O’Brien 0-2, Wright 1-3, Hammond III 0-1). Rebounds — Yale 37 (Mbeng 8); Colorado 33 (da Silva 6). Assists — Yale 9 (Knowling 2, Mahoney 2, Gharram 2); Colorado 10 (Simpson 3). Total fouls — Yale 17, Colorado 8. Fouled out — None. A — 5,780.