According to the blueprint for success typically followed by the Colorado men’s basketball team, Sunday should have been a rough one.
As the Buffaloes battled Stanford in the first November conference game in program history, CU’s defense couldn’t contain the Cardinal. The visitors also left the CU Events Center having outrebounded the hosts 32-28.
Defense and rebounding are the pillars head coach Tad Boyle has built his program around during his 12 years in Boulder. Yet on Sunday, it was Evan Battey and the Buffs’ offense that took center stage. The end result was another nerve-racking victory in the final minutes, as CU outlasted Stanford for an 80-76 win in the Pac-12 Conference opener.
“Our defense and rebounding was not good enough to win tonight,” Boyle said. “But our offense won us the game. We shared the ball. We moved the ball. And I was really pleased with our offensive effort tonight. We needed every three. We needed every free throw down the stretch because our defense was not very good and they’re a good rebounding team.”
In a back-and-forth contest throughout the evening, the game was tied 66-66 when CU reeled off seven consecutive points to take control. Stanford remained within two points on a 3-point play from Lukas Kisunas with 36.5 seconds remaining, but free throws from Keeshawn Barthelemy (2-for-2) and Elijah Parquet (1-for-2) again gave CU a five-point cushion.
Stanford freshman Harrison Ingram kept things interesting with a 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds left, trimming CU’s lead to 78-76, before Barthelemy hit two more free throws with 12.2 seconds left to ice the league-opening win.
Sophomore Tristan da Silva took on the challenge of slowing Ingram, one of the top freshmen in the Pac-12. And despite a few late buckets by Ingram at critical junctures, CU’s sophomore forward turned in a rugged defensive effort. Ingram entered the game as Stanford’s leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, but he was held to eight points on a 3-for-13 showing in large part due to the work of da Silva.
Da Silva also made key contributions offensively, knocking down a big 3-pointer off a feed from Battey that capped the Buffs’ late 7-0 run. Da Silva knocked down two 3-pointers in a game for the first time in his career, finishing with 13 points and a career-high four assists.
Overall, the Buffs shot .491 and committed a season-low six turnovers. Stanford finished with a .500 mark (26-for-52) from the field, a season-high for a CU opponent.
“(Ingram) is a great player,” da Silva said. “You could see it out there. He’s one of those leading scorers-rebounders-assists guys. I think he’s a big key to their success, and it’s even more important that we lock in on defense and try to make it as tough for him as possible. I tried to do that.”
It was a memorable game for Battey, who scored a career-high 22 points while becoming the 38th player in CU men’s basketball history to reach the 1,000-point mark in his career.
Battey went 8-for-11 from the field, including a career-best 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Until this season he had connected on two 3-pointers in a game just once in his career, and that occurred way back in the third game of his career at San Diego on Nov. 20, 2018. But the senior forward went 2-for-2 on 3-pointers two weeks ago against New Mexico before adding Sunday’s 4-for-4 showing.
Sophomore Jabari Walker posted his third consecutive double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds, which matched a career-high he set two games ago against Duquesne.
“I can’t really find the words. I just want to get wins,” Battey said. “I came in not worrying about the individual stats. I’m still not worrying about it. I just want to win games. That (1,000 points) is good and all, but I’m really focused on the next game.”
What went right: CU shot .536 in the second half, posting a .491 mark overall, and committed a season-low six turnovers.
What went wrong: Stanford shot 50 percent overall, including a 10-for-24 mark on 3-pointers, and the Cardinal outrebounded CU 32-28.
Star of the game: Evan Battey. The senior forward became CU’s 38th career 1,000-point scorer in style, going 8-for-11 with a career-high 22 points. He also went a career-best 4-for-4 on 3-pointers.
What’s next: The start of Pac-12 play gets much tougher for the Buffs on Wednesday when they visit No. 2 UCLA (7:30 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks).
Colorado 80, Stanford 76
STANFORD (4-3, 0-1 Pac-12)
Delaire 2-4 2-2 6, Ingram 3-13 0-0 8, Jones 5-6 2-2 15, Raynaud 1-1 0-0 3, O’Connell 4-8 0-0 8, Angel 3-7 6-6 13, Kisunas 5-5 1-1 11, Taitz 2-5 1-2 7, Keefe 0-0 2-2 2, Silva 1-2 0-0 3, Murrell 0-1 0-0 0, Beskind 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-52 14-15 76.
COLORADO (6-1, 1-0 Pac-12 )
Battey 8-11 2-2 22, Walker 5-9 2-4 12, da Silva 4-7 3-3 13, Barthelemy 1-8 8-8 10, Parquet 2-5 2-4 6, Simpson 5-8 1-3 12, Clifford 1-3 0-0 2, Lovering 1-3 0-0 2, O’Brien 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 27-55 19-26 80.
Halftime — Colorado 37-32. 3-point field goals — Stanford 10-24 (Jones 3-4, Taitz 2-3, Ingram 2-7, Raynaud 1-1, Silva 1-1, Angel 1-4, Delaire 0-1, Murrell 0-1, O’Connell 0-2), Colorado 7-19 (Battey 4-4, da Silva 2-4, Simpson 1-2, Clifford 0-1, O’Brien 0-1, Parquet 0-2, Walker 0-2, Barthelemy 0-3). Rebounds — Stanford 32 (Kisunas 9), Colorado 28 (Walker 13). Assists — Stanford 16 (Ingram, O’Connell 5), Colorado 12 (da Silva 4). Total fouls — Stanford 24, Colorado 14. A — 6,221 (11,064).