LAS VEGAS -- Tad Boyle and the Buffs will be waiting and watching as the NCAA Tournament bracket is unveiled line by excruciating line on live television Sunday.

But this time the team probably won't be doing the viewing on the couch in the coach's living room surrounded by the media and boosters.

Colorado's fate is now in a selection committee's hands after the Buffs' 79-69 loss to No. 18 Arizona in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Two years ago, Boyle had to console the Cory Higgins- and Alec Burks-led Buffs in his basement after the program was snubbed with the cameras rolling and the champagne on ice.

Based on a fifth-place finish in an improved power conference, the nation's 19th-strongest schedule, an RPI of 34 and four wins over ranked opponents, Boyle is hopeful CU will be invited to the Big Dance.

"Our situation is totally different. I feel better," Boyle said. "But (what happened) two years ago leaves me a little gun shy as a coach."

CU's run at another automatic bid was derailed by Mark Lyons.

With the Wildcats clinging to a four-point lead, Xavier Johnson kicked the ball out of bounds with one second left on the shot clock.

Lyons raced to the corner, grabbed an in-bounds pass, and calmly drilled a difficult 3-pointer to give Arizona a 71-64 lead with 2:04 remaining.


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"That was the play of the game and it was our breakdown," Boyle lamented. "It was a great shot, but it was our breakdown that led to him getting that shot open with nobody guarding him."

The Buffs (21-11) had trailed 54-40 after a 3-pointer by Jordin Mayes with 12:25 remaining before mounting a valiant comeback attempt.

Spencer Dinwiddie capped a 7-0 spurt with a 3-pointer, but after a timeout by Sean Miller the Wildcats regained momentary control with five unanswered points.

A beautiful finger roll by Dinwiddie (59-53) and a clutch 3-pointer by Jeremy Adams (66-60) kept the No. 5 seeds within two possessions in crunch time.

A Johnson basket (66-62) and two free throws by Dinwiddie (68-64) got the Buffs within four points before Lyons' heroics.

"It seems like every time we get together with them, we play these very physical, tough games," Miller said. "Today was no different."

Askia Booker answered Lyons' shot with a deep ball on the other end, and after a steal by Andre Roberson the 6-7 junior made two free throws to make the score 71-69 with 1:03 left.

CU did not score again.

Nick Johnson finished a tough field goal between two defenders on the other end and then drew a questionable over-the-back call on Roberson with 28.1 seconds left.

The Wildcats (25-6) made six consecutive free throws in the final 23.6 seconds to close out the game.

"It definitely wasn't a foul, I was just going for the ball," Roberson said. "It was a high-level environment out there and at the end of the game it's nitty-gritty time and everyone is just going for the ball. It should be a no call."

Roberson played an inspired game, finishing with 15 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, two blocks and an assist in 34 minutes. Dinwiddie (18 points) and Booker (12 points) also scored in double figures but were a combined 8-for-22 from the field.

"They just played solid defense, it wasn't nothing special," said Dinwiddie, who was blanketed by Johnson most of the game. "They did a great job of team defense the whole game."

The Buffs trailed 39-28 at the intermission after missing seven free throws and allowing Arizona to score 15 points off 10 turnovers.

Johnson made a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats an early lead, and Josh Scott was called for his second foul on the next possession with 14:53 remaining in the half.

Shane Harris-Tunks hit his head on the floor after getting tangled up with Grant Jerrett in front of Arizona's bench. The 6-11 center did not return for CU due to a concussion.

The officials allowed play to go on and the Wildcats converted a 5-on-4 power play of sorts. Moments later, Brandon Ashley capped a 7-0 run that put CU in a 20-11 hole.

"It never helps when your bigs get in foul trouble, especially in a physical game," Boyle said. "That was a high-level basketball game out there by both teams. ... But I thought (Scott) played through it in the second half and gave us some good minutes.

 

On the final possession of the half, Sabatino Chen was unable to get the ball in bounds under the CU basket in under five seconds.

Solomon Hill scored and was fouled by Chen with three seconds left. The 6-7 senior made the free throw to give the Wildcats an 11-point cushion at the break.

"Every loose ball means everything in a game like that," Hill said after scoring 13 points and seven rebounds in his physical clash with Roberson. "It's a possession game and you want to be able to scramble for it."

Since starting Pac-12 play 1-4 after the controversial 92-83 overtime loss on Jan. 3 in Tucson, the Buffs are 10-5.

CU split the regular-season series with Arizona after 71-58 victory on Feb. 14 at the Coors Events Center.

"I think they respect our program, we certainly respect their program. You have to have that to have a healthy rivalry," Boyle said. "They've always got Arizona State, I don't know if they'll ever admit to Colorado being their rival. But we've had some very good games against their team and I expect that to continue."

The Buffs, who won four games to win the Pac-12 Tournament an automatic NCAA Tournament invitation last year, are now 4-1 on neutral courts this season having won the Charleston Classic in November and ending Oregon State's season in the opening round on Wednesday.

CU is 4-3 against ranked opponents this season with two of the losses coming against the Wildcats, who will face top-seeded UCLA in the semifinals on Friday.

"Yes," Boyle said when asked if the Buffs were deserving of one of the 37 at-large berths into the NCAA Tournament.

When asked why, the third-year CU head coach pointed out that Roberson -- who missed the final two games of the regular season with a viral illness -- is back and the Buffs challenged themselves with three true road games and three neutral-court games during a 12-game non-conference slate.

"We had 15 home games. That is fewest of anybody in the Pac-12," Boyle said. "So we went on the road, played a good schedule and we weren't perfect. We're one of the top 37 at-large (teams) in my mind.

"But that's not for us to decide. That's all I'm going to say about it."

 

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanThorburn

 

Fast break

What went right

Andre Roberson showed the NCAA Selection Committee that he's healthy with 15 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks, two steals and an assist.

What went wrong

The Buffs missed eight free throws -- seven in the first half -- and had only six assists.

Star of the game

Do we need to repeat Roberson's line?

What's next?

The Buffs play the waiting game. There's no question they'll be playing again, but they're hoping for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, not the other one.

No. 18 Arizona 79, Colorado 69

COLORADO

FG FT Reb

Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS

Booker 26 4-10 2-2 1-1 0 3 12

Johnson 30 3-5 4-7 2-2 1 4 11

Roberson 34 6-13 3-5 6-11 1 1 15

Dinwiddie 34 4-12 9-10 0-0 2 2 18

Scott 22 1-1 0-0 1-3 0 3 2

Talton 10 2-3 0-0 0-4 2 2 4

Stalzer 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Harris-Tunks 2 0-2 0-0 1-2 0 0 0

Chen 11 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 2

Adams 23 1-4 1-2 0-2 0 2 4

Mills 5 0-0 1-2 0-2 0 0 1

Totals 200 22-51 20-28 13-33 6 18 69

 

Percentages: FG .431, FT .714.

3-Point Goals: 5-12, .417 (Booker 2-5, Johnson 1-1, Adams 1-1, Dinwiddie 1-4, Roberson 0-1).

Team Rebounds: 6.

Blocked Shots: 3 (Roberson 2, Scott).

Turnovers: 13 (Chen 4, Booker 3, Dinwiddie 2, Roberson, Scott, Johnson, Adams).

Steals: 4 (Dinwiddie 2, Roberson 2).

Technical Fouls: None.

ARIZONA

FG FT Reb

Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS

Lyons 34 4-13 4-4 0-2 3 1 14

Parrom 21 2-3 0-0 1-2 2 2 5

Johnson 35 6-7 4-5 0-1 3 1 18

Tarczewski 23 2-4 0-0 2-5 0 3 4

Hill 36 5-13 2-3 4-7 4 3 13

Mayes 11 3-7 0-0 1-1 0 2 8

Ashley 17 3-9 2-2 2-5 3 4 8

Chol 2 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 2

Jerrett 21 2-5 2-2 1-6 1 2 7

Totals 200 28-62 14-16 12-31 16 18 79

 

Percentages: FG .452, FT .875.

3-Point Goals: 9-27, .333 (Johnson 2-2, Mayes 2-3, Lyons 2-9, Parrom 1-2, Jerrett 1-4, Hill 1-7).

Team Rebounds: 2.

Blocked Shots: 7 (Jerrett 4, Ashley 2, Johnson).

Turnovers: 10 (Lyons 2, Johnson 2, Hill 2, Ashley, Jerrett, Mayes, Chol).

Steals: 7 (Jerrett 2, Parrom, Johnson, Ashley, Lyons, Hill).

Technical Fouls: None.

Colorado 28 41--69

Arizona 39 40--79

 

A -- 12,915.

Officials -- Michael Greenstein, Tony Padilla, Brett Nansel.