After dropping their last home game to Colorado State by 14 points, few thought Colorado would return to the Coors Events Center on Wednesday night and take down No. 13 Xavier.
In an unprecedented offensive and defensive firestorm, the Buffaloes shocked the Musketeers, 68-66, after a late 15-0 Buffalo run put the final nail in the coffin to hand them their second straight loss.
“It was a great win for our program and certainly for our league,” head coach Tad Boyle said. “We beat a great Xavier team. I don’t think either team tonight was either their sharpest or their best tonight. But we knew it was going to be a hell of a game.”
From start the finish, the CEC was rocking on the court and off it.
No team gained more than an eight-point lead and even that wasn’t enough to win it for the Musketeers.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, the game saw 13 lead changes and six ties. The Buffs finished with 44.6 percent shooting from the floor and the Musketeers shot a mere 37.7 percent.
Senior transfer Derrick White had the best performance of his young DI career, as he finished with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists and a lethal block at the end that killed any chance Xavier had of winning the game. Senior Xavier Johnson and junior George King supplemented his effort with 18 and 16 points, respectively, and King added 10 rebounds on top of that.
It’s probably safe to say White has this whole Division I thing figured out.
Throughout much of the first half, the fire in the heart of the Buffalo burned red hot as the Buffs kept one of the top teams in the nation on its toes for the entire first 20 minutes of play.
With the way the Buffs have been playing lately, Xavier should have blown the team away quickly and convincingly, but that was far from the truth. Perhaps it was the single-digit degree weather that the Musketeers faced on the way to the stadium, or perhaps it was the near 4,900 foot elevation difference from Cincinnati, where Xavier hails from.
Either way, the Buffs gave Xavier a serious run for their money. By the time the buzzer sounded for the break, the game saw three ties and six lead changes and the Buffs held the bigger advantage at any given point of play thus far when they went five points on top, 28-23.
But the Musketeers, not to be embarrassed after falling to white-hot No. 4 Baylor in their last contest, lit a fire of their own that out-burned that of the Buffaloes. They snuffed CU’s efforts real fast with an 8-0 run to end the half, 31-28.
At the beginning of the second half, Xavier seemed to have found themselves again, however briefly. They started off with an 8-2 run, but the Buffs had their answer with a 7-2 rush of their own.
As play remained close for the next few minutes on the clock, a storm was brewing in Buffalo land. With 12 and a half minutes left in the game, the Buffs’ fire exploded into an all-out raging inferno, as they ignited a 15-0 to gain a good lead on the Musketeers with under six minutes remaining, 54-49.
“It’s about getting stops,” White said. “I think we went on a little run there when they didn’t get buckets, so that’s the reason why we got back in the game, and that’s the reason we won. It’s all about defense.”
When Derrick White hit a flawless three-point jumper exactly two minutes later, that lead grew to seven, 61-54.
It was all said and done after that.
Although the Musketeers tried their hardest to get back on top, they couldn’t muster enough effort to get the job done. But that’s not to stay they didn’t keep every fan in attendance on edge.
By the end of it all, the Buffs shocked the Musketeers with a explosive performance, 68-66.
“They battled, they scratched. They’re tough,” Boyle said. “I got a lot of respect for Xavier. That’s why this win is a big win for our program and for our league.”
With this confidence boost in the bag, the Buffs move on to their next big matchup at Brigham Young on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
“We wanted to get this one back from the Colorado State loss, so, yeah, it’s a makeup,” senior forward Wesley Gordon said. “But it just gave our team confidence, so we’re on the rise right now. We’re on a little high so we got to keep going.”