Snapshot: CU Buffs MBB 65, Seton Hall 64 (NIT first round)
Turning point: It was a back-and-forth game the entire 40 minutes, but CU prevailed after Jalen Gabbidon found Julian Hammond III for a go-ahead layup with 20.6 seconds remaining.
Buff of the game: Ethan Wright: The graduate transfer from Princeton turned in his best performance of the season, going 4-for-6 on 3-pointers and 4-for-4 on free throws before finishing with a season-high 18 points.
What’s next?: The third-seeded Buffs will either host Utah Valley or visit New Mexico in the second round on Saturday or Sunday.
The season remains alive for at least one more game for the Colorado men’s basketball team.
The Buffaloes survived a tightly-contested battle against Seton Hall on Tuesday night, outlasting the Pirates for a 65-64 win in an NIT first-round matchup at the CU Events Center.
The third-seeded Buffs will await the winner of Wednesday night’s first-round battle between second-seeded New Mexico and visiting Utah Valley. If the Lobos win, the Buffs will travel to Albuquerque. If Utah Valley wins, CU will host a second-round game on either Saturday or Sunday.
In a game that featured 10 lead changes, Seton Hall used a late 9-2 burst to take a 64-63 lead. But on the ensuing possession, CU senior Jalen Gabbidon found Julian Hammond III for a go-ahead layup with 20.6 seconds remaining. The Buffs recorded one last defensive stop in a defensive battle to punch their ticket to the second round.
In the fifth NIT appearance in 13 seasons under head coach Tad Boyle, CU improved to 3-2 in the opening round.
“Great win. March victories are hard to come by, whether you’re playing at home in the NIT or neutral floors in the NCAA Tournament,” Boyle said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. Seton Hall is a tough team with tough kids and a tough coach. We knew they weren’t going to go away, and they didn’t.
“It was appropriate that we won that game on a stop, because that’s what we pride ourselves on defensively.”
CU opened up a nine-point lead late in the first half, but the Pirates cut their deficit to 33-27 at the break. Seton Hall used a 13-2 run in the second half to take a 47-42 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining.
A 13-4 run capped by a tip-in by Luke O’Brien gave CU a 61-56 lead with 4 minutes, 1 second remaining, yet once again the Pirates answered. A 3-point play from Seton Hall’s KC Ndefo with 32.1 seconds left gave the Pirates a one-point lead, but the Gabbidon-to-Hammond layup proved to be the winner.
“They’re pretty strong. They’re a tough group,” CU forward Tristan da Silva said. “They’ve got a lot of grit, and I feel like they pride themselves on defense, too.”
Ethan Wright came through with the biggest game of his lone season with the Buffs, going 4-for-6 on 3-pointers and 4-for-4 on free throws before finishing with a season-high 18 points. Wright also matched a season-high with five rebounds.
O’Brien nearly missed a double-double, scoring eight points to go with a career-high 14 rebounds, while da Silva knocked down three 3-pointers to finish with 15 points. Hammond, making his fourth consecutive start in place of the mono-stricken KJ Simpson, recorded 10 points and five assists with only one turnover.
“I thought Julian Hammond played a really good game. Ethan Wright was terrific off the bench,” Boyle said. “And Luke O’Brien, 14 rebounds, he gave us great, great energy. It’s just a good win. Any time you win in March, it’s a good win.”
Colorado 65, Seton Hall 64
Seton Hall (17-16)
Samuel 6-13 4-5 16, Ndefo 6-8 6-7 18, Dawes 5-18 0-0 13, Harris 1-4 0-0 3, Odukale 2-8 2-2 6, D. Davis 2-8 2-2 6, Sanders 0-1 0-0 0, T. Davis 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 22-60 16-18 64.
da Silva 5-16 2-2 15, Lovering 1-3 2-3 4, O’Brien 3-9 2-2 8, Hammond III 4-9 1-3 10, Clifford 1-3 2-2 5, Gabbidon 2-5 0-0 5, Wright 5-9 4-4 18, Allen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-54 13-16 65.
Halftime — Coloardo 33-27. 3-point field goals — Seton Hall 4-18 (Ndefo 0-1, Dawes 3-10, Harris 1-3, Odukale 0-1, D. Davis 0-2, Sanders 0-1); Colorado 10-18 (da Silva 3-6, O’Brien 0-1, Hammond III 1-1, Clifford 1-1, Gabbidon 1-3, Wright 4-6). Rebounds — Seton Hall 36 (Samuel 11); Colorado 39 (O’Brien 14). Assists — Seton Hall 12 (Odukale 4); Colorado 13 (Hammond III 5). Turnovers — Seton Hall 6; Colorado 10. Total fouls — Seton Hall 16; Colorado 16. A — 2,363.