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Buffs Topple Washington State For Pac-12 Home Win
Story by Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor, CUBuffs.com
BOULDER — Colorado broke open a close game in the second half Thursday with a 13-2 run and the Buffaloes had four players in double figures as CU collected an 83-78 Pac-12 win over Washington State at the CU Events Center.
The Buffs, who were playing their first game in 19 days, improved to 10-3 overall and 2-1 in Pac-12 play to help coach Tad Boyle celebrate his 59th birthday.
Washington State fell to 8-6, 1-2.
Tyrell Roberts led the Cougars with 25 points. CU defensive specialist Elijah Parquet held WSU leading scorer to seven points on 2-for-10 shooting — half his season average.
Colorado trailed by one at intermission, 38-37, but the Buffs used a 13-2 run midway through the second half to turn a 58-55 deficit into a 68-60 lead and they never trailed again.
While WSU shot 46 percent (28-for-61) from the floor, Colorado was even better, shooting 52 percent (29-for-56), including a blistering 18-for-28 in the second half.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Boyle said. “They just find a way. We played poorly in the first half but we were still only down by one. Washington State is a good defensive team and we figured out a way. A good win for the Buffaloes.”
HOW IT HAPPENED: The Buffs trailed by as much as six in the first half but managed to cut the deficit to one by intermission, 38-37, after scoring the final five points of the first 20 minutes.
The two teams then traded the lead seven times over the first 10 minutes of the second half before Colorado finally took control with a 11-0 run to take a 66-58 lead with [9:59] to play.
Walker, who was scoreless in the first half, started the run with a bucket inside before Julian Hammond III cashed in a layup in transition.
Hammond had a sterling effort for Colorado, getting 14 minutes on the floor after regular backup guard K.J. Simpson went down with an injury in the first half. The CU freshman finished with five rebounds, two points, four assists, four steals and no turnovers.
“Big-time minutes,” Boyle said. “He played really, really well for us.”
After Hammond’s bucket, Battey drained a long 3-pointer to give CU a 62-58 lead, forcing WSU coach Kyle Smith to call a timeout.
But the Buffs continued their surge when play resumed, as Walker scored four more for the Buffs to give CU an eight-point cushion, 66-58, with [8:54] to play.
WSU finally ended the run with a TJ Bamba bucket, but Colorado responded with a Walker follow-dunk with [7:12] to play, finishing a 13-2 CU surge. The dunk gave Walker his 14th point of the game and the Buffs were in control.
“Jabari just gets a little impatient when he’s not scoring,” Boyle said. “He just has to slow down, relax and let the game come to him. But he’s also become a much better playmaker for us. When he lets the game come to him, he can do a lot of things.”
Washington State managed to cut CU’s lead down to three with under four minutes to play, but a Battey three-point play gave the Buffs some breathing room, 74-68, with [3:28] on the clock.
A Walker bucket with [2:08] to play then gave Colorado a 78-72 lead with just more than two minutes to play and the Buffs held WSU off down the stretch for the win.
The victory was No. 299 in Boyle’s career, including a 243-146 record at Colorado.
“Just a number,” he said. “I’ve just tried to recruit good players and good kids. Kudos to the players and assistant coaches. It just means I’ve been around a while.”
Colorado jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead, thanks to 3-pointers from da Silva and Battey in the first four minutes.
But the Buffs went cold, Washington State started to warm up and the Cougars finally used a 7-0 run to take an 18-12 lead eight minutes in.
But the Cougars quickly regained the lead and held the edge for the rest of the half, building their cushion to six at several different junctures. WSU shot 47 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes (14-for-30).
Colorado, though, scored the final five points of the half to narrow WSU’s lead to 38-37 at intermission. Nique Clifford started the surge with a 3-point play before da Silva hit two free throws with 5 seconds on the clock to pull the Buffs to within one after the first 20 minutes.
TURNING POINT: The Buffs’ 13-2 run in the second half that erased a three-point WSU lead put Colorado in control and the Cougars never came closer than three again.
WHAT IT MEANS: Colorado improves to 2-1 in Pac-12 play and has a chance for another home conference win Sunday when Washington visits the Events Center.
KEY STATISTICS: CU held WSU leading scorer Michael Flowers to seven points on 2-for-10 shooting, half his average … The Buffs shot a red-hot 64 percent from the field in the second half (18-for-28) … The Buffs had a 36-34 edge in points in the paint, and CU finished with 17 assists on 29 baskets.
NEXT UP: The Buffs play host to Washington on Sunday in a 3 p.m. game at the Events Center (ESPN2/U). The Huskies (6-6 overall, 1-1 Pac-12) beat Utah on Thursday, 74-68.
Colorado Head Coach Tad Boyle
Head Coach Tad Boyle
“It was a good win. It wasn’t the prettiest performance by us, especially in the first half. This team continues to find ways to win games late in tough situations. I’m really proud of the way they played as a group. 17 assists tonight is a really good number for us. That means we’re playing together offensively. The last three weeks where we’ve haven’t played games and we’ve had workouts and/or practices, we got a lot of shots up. I think it showed tonight. We made open shots when we had to. In the second half, we shot 64% from the field. Going into the game against Washington State, they’re one of the best defensive teams in the country, in terms of field goal percentage defense. We shoot 51% against them. That’s pretty good because they’re a good defensive team. I thought our guys did a good job on that end of the ball. We turned it over a little bit too much, especially in the first half. We ended up with 17 turnovers. That’s too many, but we figured out a way and we guarded at the end when we had to. It was a good win for the Buffs.”
On How the Buffaloes Played Better in the Second Half
“We were more patient. We talked at halftime about the fact that in the first half we’re trying to score after one pass without the ball being moved from one side of the floor to the other. Against Washington State, a good defensive team, you’re not going to score on the first or second pass. You’re not going to score if you don’t get the ball from one side of floor to the other. You’re not going to score unless you get paint touches. In the first half, just to give you some statistics because my staff gives these to me at halftime, we were 3-of-14 in terms of scoring or getting fouled with no paint touches. We were 16-of-21 when we got paint touches, and we got the ball in the lane. I asked our team, do you like being 16-of-21? Or do you like being 3-of-14? That doesn’t mean we made 16 baskets, but we got to the foul line, or they fouled, or something good happened. You have to have patience to do that. We did a better job of that in the second half.”
On Jabari Walker Playing Better in the Second Half
“Jabari was struggling in the first half. I think he gets a little bit impatient sometimes when he’s not scoring. He’s got to understand the game’s going to come to him. The game tells you what to do. It tells you when to shoot, when to pass, and when to move the ball. Jabari is still figuring that out. He’s become a much better playmaker for us recently. On the first basket of the game that we got, he made a really nice pass to Evan (Battey). Earlier in the year, he probably would have put up a tough shot. Keeshawn (Barthelemy), in the first half, had some difficult twos (which were) not good shots. In the second half he did a much better job. Jabari’s got to let the game come to him and understand he’s not going to score (the basketball) every time he touches it. He just needs to make the right basketball play and he’s getting better at that. I thought he was a little bit sped at times. He’s got to slow down and relax. Jabari Walker is still a sophomore. Tristan da Silva is still a sophomore. Nique Clifford is still a sophomore. We’ve still got some young guys out there that are being put in positions in Pac-12 play that they haven’t been in before. Guys responded (to that challenge) tonight.”
On raising money for the Marshall Fire Victims
“There’s so many things that are more important than basketball that we know about. In the last game we played, we played for cancer survivors and tonight were raising money for the fire victims. That’s the one thing I love about our players. They understand the importance of community and giving to others. It’s not like they did it – our fans did it. They were the ones who came and gave the gift cards and money. Thank you to the fans that did that and we express our support. We understand there are things that are bigger than basketball – our players understand that. It’s something we talk about with these guys. Our hearts go out to those victims because it’s going to be a long road to recovery and we know that. We have to continue to help and support in any way we can do that and tonight was a good first step in that direction.”
On responding to KJ Simpson’s injury and Julian Hammond III stepping up
“Big-time minutes by Julian – big time minutes. He had four assists, no turnovers for steals and he got his hands on a lot of other balls. He really was active with his hands tonight getting deflections, which we needed because our ball screen defense in the first half was atrocious, it was better in the second half. He was as good as any guard we had in terms of getting those deflections and he played with poise. He didn’t play scared. Big time minutes by a freshman coming off the bench that hasn’t gotten a lot of minutes this year. We always talk about making the time you’re on the floor count. Don’t count the minutes you’re out there count you know, let’s make the time count that you’re out there and he did that tonight which is going to earn him more minutes in the future. So really kudos go to him. Eli Parquet played like an all PAC-12 Defender tonight on Michael Flowers, who was their leading scorer did a terrific job. He had a tough three on in there at the end but that was great defense and he held him to two for ten from the field. So, kudos to Eli for doing what he does. And that’s something he’s got to continue to take pride in.”
On his 299th Career Win
“Not really. I haven’t scored a point or got a rebound or made an assist. I’ve just tried to recruit really, really good players and good kids and help develop them and mold them into a team and our staff deserves a lot of the credit just as much as I do. All the assistants that have been here for the last 12 years and my assistants at Northern Colorado. Players win games and coaches can… I almost lost a game because I don’t know how to substitute tonight. Players win games. So the kudos go to the players that have you know, played for me and played for our staff, and kudos to the assistant coaches. So, it’s just a number and you just keep plugging away and you know, just means I’ve been around for a while. That’s all it means.”
On winning on his Birthday
“All I told my wife when I left the house this morning was ‘All I want today is a win.’ I’m really thankful. It’s amazing with social media – holy cow I sued to be able to keep my birthday under wraps but I can’t do that anymore.”
Jabari Walker, So., F
On coming back after the break
“I was just telling Evan, I felt a little rusty. Just getting up and down, it’s not the same as practice. It’s just a little more intense in the games.”
On his improvement in the second half
“I don’t know what it is. It’s something about the second half. I don’t know if the game just calms down, I don’t know if it’s the nerves. I just feel more comfortable in the second half really.”
On the anticipation of playing again
“My last game was almost like a month ago. I went out with the head injury. Since then, I haven’t played in a basketball game. Then the Kansas game, we were so prepared for that and then it got shut down. It’s just the anticipation. We were in Oregon and that got shut down. It’s like they let us out of the cage today. You definitely don’t want to take it for granted.”
Evan Battey, Sr., F
On coming back after the break
“We practice every day with this certain mindset and a certain intensity. It’s not really any adjustment. We put up a lot of shots every day so it’s not really any rust. I just saw it as a normal day at the office.”
On the second half
“We had 12 assists in the second half and we had five at half time. We share the ball and play together and that’s really all it takes for an offensive output. So, I mean, I’ve prayed to our willingness to share the ball with each other”
On Julian Hammond
“That just shows the level of sticking to it. It shows the level of preparation he has. If you remember correctly, he wasn’t playing that much at the beginning of the season. It’s a big-time adjustment to not be playing that much and just come in and get thrown in play a lot. He’s ready for it and his mindset is clear. He’s just really well prepared.”
On the anticipation of playing again
“You start to think every game is an opportunity. Obviously, an opportunity to get better, an opportunity to win the game but just compete and to be starved from that for three weeks in the midst of a season, it’s hard for anybody. I think our guys did a good job of rolling with the punches.”
On the high field goal percentage
“I don’t know about fresh legs. We shared the ball with each. We play for each other. It’s easy to just score. The ball movement like that, it just makes the game so much easier.”
Colorado wins its fourth-straight and has won seven of nine overall. The Buffaloes have won 33 of their last 45 games (33-12) over the last two seasons.
Colorado improves its series lead over Washington State to 17-6 and has won eight of the last 11. The Buffaloes are 11-0 all-time against the Cougars in Boulder.
Colorado improved to 5-1 this year in games decided by five points or less and 8-1 in games within two possessions (six points) in the final four minutes of regulation.
Colorado had a season-high 17 assists, topping their previous best of 16 which came against CSU Bakersfield in their last game – nearly three weeks ago.
Colorado shot 51.8 percent against a Washington State defense that entered the game allowing just 38.1 percent. The percentage was Colorado’s best in a Pac-12 game since the Buffs shot 55.8 percent against Oregon State on Feb. 20, 2021.
Colorado scored 83 points after not having reached 70 in its previous five outings. The Buffaloes won their 28th straight game when scoring 83-plus points (last loss was at WSU in overtime on Jan. 21, 2017 in Pullman)
CU’s 46 second half points were its most in any half this season.
Washington State started 3-of-5 from 3-point range but ended 4-of-21.
Evan Battey (20 points, 7-8 FG) recorded his fifth career 20-point game and second this season. It was also his 49th career game scoring in double-figures. He has made 15 of his last 20 from the field (.750), spanning three games.
Elijah Parquet (6 points, 4 assists) – Played in his 100th career game and made his 53rd career start. Had a season-high four assists, one off his career-best.
Keeshawn Barthelemy (17 points, 4 assists, 5-5 FT) has made his last 15 free throw attempts and is a perfect 13-of-13 in Pac-12 play (8-for-8 vs Stanford)
Julian Hammond III (2 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals) – set career-highs in rebounds assists and steals; his four steals ties the team season high held by Luke O’Brien (Maine). He had just one assist (vs. Eastern Washington) and one steal (vs. Maine) in his first eight collegiate games.
Jabari Walker (16 points, 8 rebounds, 7-11 FG) – led CU in rebounding for the ninth time this season. Scored all 16 points in the second half, hitting all seven of his shots.
Barthelemy, Walker and Battey combined for 53 points hitting 19 of 31 from the field. The last time CU had three players with 16-plus points in a league game was Mar. 9, 2019 vs. USC.
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