Tad Boyle warned that after an unusually long midseason delay between games, the Colorado men’s basketball team wouldn’t exactly be in midseason form once the Buffaloes returned to the floor.
At long last — 19 days to be exact, thanks to a series of COVID delays — that day finally arrived on Thursday. And indeed, the Buffs looked more like a team playing its first game of the season, and not one playing its first game of the new calendar year.
Yet much like several early games this season, the Buffs found a way to get the job done. Spurred by a dominant run midway through the second half, the Buffs made it a happy 59th birthday for Boyle on Thursday, resuming Pac-12 Conference play with an 83-78 victory against Washington State at the CU Events Center.
“A good win. Wasn’t the prettiest performance by us, especially in the first half, but this team continues to find ways to win games late in tough situations,” said Boyle, who earned career win No. 299 as a Division I head coach. “Seventeen assists tonight is a really, really good number for us. That means we’re playing together offensively.
“We figured out a way and we guarded at the end when we had to. A good, good win for the Buffs.”
Washington State led for much of the first half after surging ahead behind a 16-4 run. CU answered that burst with seven consecutive points to keep the score close throughout the remainder of the half, though the Cougars took a 38-37 lead into halftime.
Consecutive 3-pointers from Washington State’s Tyrell Roberts gave the Cougars a 58-52 lead midway through the second half, but CU ripped off an 11-0 run to take control. WSU battled to within 71-68 and remained within four points on several occasions down the stretch, but the Buffs came up with a key basket each time to hold off the Cougars.
WSU had a final chance after battling to within 79-76 in the final minute, but senior guard Elijah Parquet worked down the shot clock before converting a driving layup to push the CU lead back to five points.
CU shot a red-hot .643 after halftime (18-for-28) and finished 19-for-27 at the free throw line, offsetting a sloppy 17-turnover effort by the Buffs. CU shot a season-best .518 overall against a Washington State club that ranked third in the Pac-12 in defensive field goal percentage with a .389 mark.
The Buffs also limited Washington State to eight offensive rebounds. The Cougars entered the game averaging 13.1 offensive rebounds per game.
“I felt a little rusty. Just getting up and down, it’s not the same as practice,” CU sophomore Jabari Walker said. “It’s just a little more intense in the games.”
Senior Evan Battey went 7-for-8 from the field and paced the Buffs’ offense with 20 points. Point guard Keeshawn Barthelemy scored 17 points with four assists, while Walker went 7-for-11 with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Freshman guard Julian Hammond III also contributed a clutch effort off the bench. After fellow freshman KJ Simpson was sidelined for the remainder of the game after taking a shot to the head in the first half, Hammond posted five rebounds, four assists, four steals, two points and no turnovers in 14 minutes.
“We talked at halftime about the fact that in the first half we were trying to score after one pass without the ball being moved from one side of the floor to the other,” Boyle said. “Against good defensive teams, you’re not going to score on the first or second pass. You’re not going to score unless you get the ball from one side of the floor to the other.”
What went right: CU shot.518, its second-best mark of the season, and outrebounded WSU 36-31.
What went wrong: The Buffs committed 17 turnovers, their second-highest total of the season.
Star of the game: Evan Battey. It was a balanced effort from the Buffs, but Battey went 7-for-8 from the field before finishing with 20 points, three rebounds, two assists, and only one turnover in 25 minutes.
What’s next: CU’s post-hiatus homestand continues on Sunday against Washington (3 p.m., ESPN2).
Colorado 83, Washington St. 78
WASHINGTON ST. (8-5, 1-2 Pac-12)
Gueye 1-2 0-2 2, Jackson 3-6 2-2 8, Bamba 5-10 2-4 14, Flowers 2-10 2-2 7, Roberts 9-20 4-4 25, Abogidi 6-6 4-6 16, Rodman 2-3 1-1 6, Jakimovski 0-2 0-0 0, Koulibaly 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 28-61 15-21 78.
COLORADO (10-3, 2-1)
Battey 7-8 4-6 20, Walker 7-11 2-5 16, da Silva 3-6 2-2 10, Barthelemy 5-12 5-5 17, Parquet 2-6 2-2 6, Clifford 3-6 3-3 9, Hammond 1-4 0-0 2, Lovering 1-2 1-4 3, Simpson 0-1 0-0 0, O’Brien 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-56 19-27 83.
Halftime — Washington St. 38-37. 3-point field goals — Washington St. 7-26 (Roberts 3-10, Bamba 2-4, Rodman 1-2, Flowers 1-9, Jakimovski 0-1), Colorado 6-15 (Battey 2-3, da Silva 2-3, Barthelemy 2-5, Parquet 0-2, Walker 0-2). Fouled out — Jackson, Abogidi. Rebounds — Washington St. 31 (Abogidi 10), Colorado 36 (Walker 8). Assists — Washington St. 12 (Flowers 5), Colorado 17 (Barthelemy, Parquet, Hammond 4). Total fouls — Washington St. 25, Colorado 18. A — 5,543.