ST. THOMAS, US Virgin Islands — Give this to the Colorado men’s basketball team.
The team’s perimeter defense needs immediate attention. The Buffaloes’ starts to games mostly have been less than desirable. And they run hot and cold from the 3-point line to frustrating extremes.
But heart and grit? So far, this batch of Buffaloes has plenty of both.
Overcoming another shoddy defensive effort from the perimeter and a performance from 3-point range far too frigid for the tropical locale, the Buffs rallied down the stretch to survive for an 84-76 overtime win against Duquesne on Saturday in the second game of the Paradise Jam.
“Sometimes, especially in college basketball, you’ve just got to win ugly,” CU senior forward Evan Battey said. “We found a way to do it tonight. Our team was anxious and sped up, and we found a way to collect ourselves and get the ‘Dub.’ I’m proud of our guys. I’m proud of our fight. We were down 11 and we stormed back. It shows a lot about this team and our fight.”
This was one the Buffs had no business winning, but they managed to avoid a defeat that would have been a crushing blow to whatever NCAA Tournament hopes the Buffs harbor.
The Buffs never led in regulation and allowed Duquesne to thrive in areas in which the Dukes had struggled during the early portion of the season. Duquesne entered the game shooting just .258 from 3-point range, but went 11-for-24 against a CU perimeter defense that has been vulnerable through the season’s first two weeks. Duquesne’s first four opponents put up an overall shooting percentage of .515, but CU needed a late push just to finish at .408.
CU also missed its first 13 3-point attempts but managed to hit 4 of their final 6 long-range attempts during the late flurry.
“Winning ugly, and understanding we were fortunate, lucky, whatever you want to call it,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “We’ve got to get better offensively. We at times were good defensively, but 11 threes — we’re not guarding the 3-point line. It’s a laundry list.
“We made plays when we had to make plays down the stretch and in overtime. Our guys fight. They do. They’ve got grit. They’ve got toughness. They’ve got fight. We aren’t consistent enough to put anybody away or extend any leads.”
CU trailed 35-29 at halftime and fell behind by 11 points after Duquesne opened the second half with a 7-2 burst. A 10-0 run by the Buffs cut the deficit to just one point, but the Dukes extended the lead to 10 points again with under nine minutes to play.
Yet the Buffs didn’t go away and began chipping away to set up a thrilling finish. A bucket by Duquesne’s Tre Williams, who finished with a team-leading 17 points, gave the Dukes a 68-65 lead with 21 seconds remaining. With the clock winding down, CU freshman KJ Simpson drove to the basket and, at the last moment, kicked a pass out to Tristan da Silva in the corner. Da Silva knocked down the clutch 3-pointer with two seconds left to send the game into overtime.
The Buffs scored the first five points of overtime to take their first lead of the game, eventually putting together a 13-2 run to start the extra session and secure the win.
“It was kind of a broken play, actually,” Simpson said of his key drive-and-dish. “It wasn’t supposed to go that way, but players make plays, and that’s what we did. When it broke down, I just drove to the basket and drew everyone in. Tristan stayed disciplined and was in the corner, and that’s an open three. We work on that all the time.”
What went right: CU outscored Duquesne 16-8 in overtime and hit 4 of its final 6 3-point attempts.
What went wrong: The Buffs missed their first 13 3-point attempts and allowed what had been a poor shooting Dukes team to go 11-for-24 from the arc.
Star of the game: Evan Battey. The Buffs had plenty of heroes in the comeback, but the senior forward paced CU with 18 points and added five rebounds, three steals, and two assists.
What’s next: The Buffs will be off on Sunday before completing the Paradise Jam on Monday against Brown (1:15 p.m. MT, ESPN3).
Colorado 84, Duquesne 76, OT
Easley 7-15 3-3 19, Williams 6-14 4-6 17, Acuff 2-5 0-1 5, Okani 4-8 0-0 9, Spears 2-6 0-0 6, Ayers 5-11 2-2 15, Johnson 2-5 0-0 5, Rotroff 0-3 0-2 0. Totals 28-67 9-14 76.
Battey 7-13 4-5 18, Walker 4-15 4-5 13, da Silva 4-9 1-2 10, Barthelemy 5-8 0-0 12, Parquet 3-11 3-4 9, Simpson 3-8 5-6 11, O’Brien 2-3 0-0 4, Clifford 3-6 1-1 7, Hammond 0-1 0-0 0, Lovering 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 31-76 18-23 84.
Halftime — Duquesne 35-29. 3-point goals — Duquesne 11-24 (Ayers 3-6, Spears 2-2, Easley 2-4, Acuff 1-2, Johnson 1-2, Williams 1-3, Okani 1-4, Rotroff 0-1), Colorado 4-19 (Barthelemy 2-2, da Silva 1-3, Walker 1-5, Battey 0-1, Clifford 0-1, Hammond 0-1, O’Brien 0-1, Simpson 0-2, Parquet 0-3). Fouled out — Williams. Rebounds — Duquesne 42 (Easley 12), Colorado 48 (Walker 13). Assists — Duquesne 12 (Johnson 4), Colorado 12 (Simpson 4). Total fouls — Duquesne 21, Colorado 15. A — 723 (3,000).