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Collapse: CU Buffs men’s basketball stunned by ASU in Pac-12 opener

BOULDER,CO:December 1:Colorado Buffaloes' J'Vonne Hadley looks for room against Arizona State in Pac-12 basketball on December 1, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER,CO:December 1:Colorado Buffaloes’ J’Vonne Hadley looks for room against Arizona State in Pac-12 basketball on December 1, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

The first 20 minutes might have been the best half of basketball Colorado has put together against a non-ranked team this season.

The next 20 minutes were more along the line of how the Buffaloes have played against foes without a number before their name. And again it cost the Buffaloes dearly.

Arizona State’s Desmond Cambridge capped a stunning comeback by the Sun Devils by draining a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds remaining, erasing a 15-point CU lead to hand the Buffs a 60-59 loss in the Pac-12 Conference opener on Thursday night at the CU Events Center.

Despite two wins against ranked foes this season, CU still has been unable to post consecutive wins through the first eight games of the season.

“This one stings, obviously,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “We played well enough to win this game, but we didn’t. We didn’t down the stretch. We didn’t in the second half. I felt like it should have been a 20-point game at halftime, minimum. It wasn’t. We continually talk a lot about the same things. Not finishing. Turning the ball over. Not handling pressure. It’s been a common theme with this group. Not putting two halves together, whether it’s offensively or defensively.

“I thought we lost this game right out of the chute in the second half. Our guys that were starting that second half were not ready to play. Disappointing loss. Probably top five disappointing loss in my 13 years at Colorado.”

Colorado didn’t lead by 20 at the break, but did hold a 38-23 halftime lead and retained the 15-point advantage after an Ethan Wright 3-pointer a little less than six minutes into the second half. But on a bad night for the Buffaloes on the turnover front, repeated miscues allowed a Sun Devils team that didn’t shoot well and got crushed on the glass to have a chance down the stretch.

Following the Wright 3-pointer, ASU reeled off a 10-1 run, during which the Buffs committed six turnovers. CU’s lead remained at 12 points following a Tristan da Silva free throw with 6:07 to play, but ASU scored the next 13 points to take a 57-56 lead with 2:27 remaining.

The Buffs recaptured the lead when Jalen Gabbidon drew a foul at the 3-point line and converted all three free throws, giving CU a 59-57 lead with 2:03 left, but the Buffs didn’t score again. After Gabbidon’s three free throws, CU recorded a pair of defensive stops, only to turn the ball back over to ASU each time before Cambridge’s winning 3-pointer.

“I just kind of put it on myself a little bit, because as a point guard, especially a leader, I have to control everything,” said KJ Simpson, who scored a team-high 13 points but also committed five turnovers. “I’ve got to make sure the game doesn’t get out of hand, and I let myself turn the ball over too much. Our offense was too wild. We had to do a better job of playing our game, and I think we just got caught up in trying to play too fast because they were pressuring us.”

CU finished with a season-high 20 turnovers, committing 12 in the second half while allowing ASU to post a game-changing 22-7 edge in points off turnovers. The Buffs also once again struggled at the free throw line, going 9-for-17 to drop their season percentage to .663. Simpson twice missed the front end of 1-and-1 free throw opportunities in the final 2:52. CU didn’t record a field goal over the final 6:40.

“We wilted tonight,” Boyle said. “We wilted to their pressure. As a coach, that’s really, really hard to deal with. I have to do a better job.”

Snapshot: Arizona State at CU Buffs

Turning point: ASU used a 10-1 early in the second half to get back in the game, then stunned the Buffs with a 13-0 run to take its first lead since the game’s early moments.

Buff of the game: No CU player enjoyed a particularly great outing, but Tristan da Silva finished with 10 points, a career-high eight rebounds, and three assists.

What’s next?: Pac-12 play continues for CU with an always-challenging trip to Washington on Sunday (1 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).

Arizona St. 60, Colorado 59

ARIZONA ST. (7-1, 1-0 Pac-12)

Washington 3-6 0-1 6, Dev.Cambridge 7-12 3-3 18, Des.Cambridge 4-12 0-0 11, Horne 4-12 0-1 8, Nunez 1-7 2-3 4, Neal 2-3 2-3 6, Muhammad 2-5 0-0 4, Gaffney 1-3 0-0 3, Brennan 0-0 0-2 0, Boakye 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-61 7-13 60.

COLORADO (4-4, 0-1 Pac-12)

da Silva 4-9 1-3 10, Lovering 0-1 2-2 2, Clifford 0-5 2-4 2, Gabbidon 1-2 3-3 6, Simpson 5-16 0-2 13, Hadley 3-4 0-1 6, Wright 2-7 0-0 6, Hammond 2-5 0-0 5, O’Brien 2-2 1-2 6, Ruffin 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 20-53 9-17 59.

Halftime — Colorado 38-23.  3-point field goals — Arizona St. 5-26 (Des.Cambridge 3-8, Gaffney 1-3, Dev.Cambridge 1-4, Muhammad 0-1, Neal 0-1, Nunez 0-4, Horne 0-5), Colorado 10-26 (Simpson 3-10, Wright 2-4, O’Brien 1-1, Gabbidon 1-2, Hammond 1-2, Ruffin 1-2, da Silva 1-4, Clifford 0-1). Rebounds — Arizona St. 34 (Washington 6), Colorado 47 (da Silva 8). Assists — Arizona St. 16 (Horne 6), Colorado 15 (da Silva, Hammond 3). Total Fouls — Arizona St. 20, Colorado 15. A — 6,917.