Buffaloes hold off Rams late surge, sneak away with 86-80 victory over CSU

Mar 8, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle is pictured during a Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal match against the Arizona Wild Cats at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes outlasted the Colorado State Rams 86-80 on Saturday in Boulder to snap CSU’s two-game win streak over its intrastate foe.

The 2018 edition of the basketball Rocky Mountain Showdown featured a back-and-forth battle. The Rams and Buffaloes traded the lead 12 times in what became a thrilling 40 minutes.

CSU executed and controlled the early stages of the game. The Buffaloes played better as the game went on, and did everything they could to take the Rams out of the CU Event Center before the final buzzer.

Although, that wasn’t the case. CU held a three-point lead with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game before holding on for the victory.

“Clearly our guys weren’t afraid of the moment,” Medved said. “They weren’t on their heels or anything and they were out here playing. That’s a great sign. I think we’ll grow and get better from this.”

The Rams showcased an effective shooting display in the first half. Paired with a sound defensive effort, CSU held a 32-29 halftime advantage over the 14-point favored Buffaloes.

CSU wasn’t able to operate its offense smoothly in the opening half. CU’s defense contained the Rams from swinging the ball effectively. But, the Rams survived by converting many contested shots in the midst of broken possessions.

The Buffaloes earned a decent amount of good looks in the first half. However, CU shot 32 percent from the floor and missed many easy opportunities to score. The Rams used a number of missed layups to their advantage.

In fact, CSU’s offense was at its best in transition. That was where Medved’s offense produced its high percentage shots.

“I thought we spaced the floor a little bit,” Medved said. “We got out in transition and we were able to attack these guys with our spacing.”

For the most part, CSU controlled the opening frame. CU began the game by scoring a quick five points. The Rams responded with 10 points of their own. From there, CSU held the lead for nearly 10 minutes, until the 6:26 mark in the half.

After a bit of a complacent first half, CU came out aggressive to begin the second half. The Buffaloes converted 8-13 field goals in the final half.

CU forward Lucas Siewert forced Medved to call a timeout after converting a two-footer to give CU a 46-41 lead with 13 minutes remaining. For the first time in the game, the home crowd was fully energized.

The Buffaloes did enough to run away with the game early in the second half. However, the Rams never fizzled.

“That’s the one thing I know my team is going to do, we stay together through everything,” redshirt junior forward Nico Carvacho said. “We were down, came back. And I know that we are going to get back in there Monday and get some work in for a good team on Wednesday.”

So much for the stout CSU defense seen in the first half. The Buffaloes assembled a scoring masterpiece in the final 20 minutes. At one point CU converted 12 consecutive shots, which gave the Buffaloes a 70-59 lead with under seven minutes left to play.

Overall, CU shot 61.8 percent from the floor and scored 32 points in the paint in the second half

“They got really aggressive in the second half,” Medved said. “We didn’t do nearly as good enough of a job of getting back, guarding the ball…and then they hurt us in the paint and hurt us on the glass in the second half, which they didn’t do in the first half.”

It’s almost astounding the Rams were able to stay in the game despite virtually no defensive pressure in the later stages. And not only was CSU in the game, it nearly pulled off a victory.

Trailing 74-72, Bonner converted an elbow three to give the Rams their first lead since the beginning of the second half with 2:26 remaining.

With under 30 seconds remaining, CSU guard Kris Martin had an opportunity to tie the game at 80. Instead, the guard failed to hit rim on an ill-advised, quick shot from deep.

“I wish he would have put it on the floor,” Medved said. “That’s just something he’ll learn from…he’ll grow from that. Clearly, the play was designed for him to put the ball on the floor though.”

Martin led all scorers with 21 points on 8-14 shooting. Three other CSU-scorers reached double-figures scoring, including Colorado native J.D. Paige. The redshirt senior guard went 7-14 from the floor and totalled 17 points in his last ever game against CU.

“We all knew coming in that this would be J.D’s last game against CU,” Martin said. “We wanted to win this game for him. I’m disappointed we didn’t get the job done, but I fought for him.”

CSU now stands at 4-4 overall after dropping three consecutive games. The Rams are back in action on Wednesday when the green and gold host Arkansas at Moby Arena.