FORT COLLINS — Colorado staged a furious second half rally Wednesday but the Buffaloes came up just short against No. 20 Colorado State, dropping an 88-83 decision at Moby Arena.

Tad Boyle‘s Buffs fell to 5-2 while the Rams improved to 7-0.

The Buffs trailed by 15 at the half but cut the deficit to five early in the second half and were still within five in the final minutes, thanks to 21 second-half points from freshman Cody Williams and 20 second-half points from KJ Simpson.

But the Buffs could never completely close the gap as the Rams had an answer on the offensive end at every critical moment and held CU at bay down the stretch.

Colorado ended up shooting 54.5 percent from the floor (30-for-55), including a 20-for-29 second half (69 percent). The Buffs also had a 34-21 edge on the boards. But the Rams were 27-for-53 from the floor, including 9-for-22 from 3-point range, and they converted 15 Colorado turnovers into 17 points.

Simpson finished as the game’s leading scorer with 30 points. Williams tallied 21 and Tristan da Silva scored 11.

Isaiah Stevens led five Rams in double figures with 20 points and he had 11 assists — five more than the entire Colorado team.

Defensively, Colorado failed to string together three stops in a row even once the entire game.

“Disappointing,” Boyle said. “The second half we fought our tails off but we weren’t good enough defensively all night long. We never strung together stops and that puts a lot of pressure on your offense. Our offense was good enough in the second half but not in the first half because they were the aggressors. Colorado State is good but that was really disappointing because that was a winnable game. It was a great college basketball atmosphere and we didn’t do our part.”

HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado trailed by 15 at the break, 41-26, after committing nine turnovers in the first half and shooting just 10-for-26 from the field, including 0-for-5 from long range.

The Rams, meanwhile, were 14-for-28 in the first period, including 7-for-14 from beyond the arc.

But the Buffs burst from the gate in the second half with a 22-12 surge to cut CSU’s lead to 53-48 with 13:18 still to play. Williams fueled the surge with 10 points after a scoreless first half and Simpson added seven in the run.

“We switched some things offensively in the second half to get the ball moving side to side,” Boyle said. “We have some success with it there.”

But CSU pushed its lead back to double digits, building its cushion to 64-52 on four free throws from Stevens. Two of those came after a technical on Boyle, who was vehemently protesting a pair of questionable calls against Colorado.

But the Buffs didn’t go away quietly. Luke O’Brien and Julian Hammond III hit buckets inside to cut the deficit to eight and a Williams basket with 6:13 to play shaved the CSU lead to six, 68-62, with 6:13 to play. Colorado then managed to stay within striking range over the next six minutes but could not come closer than five as the Buffs could not come up with steady defensive stops.

“We had zero kills defensively,” Boyle said. “A kill is when you get three stops in a row. We want three each half. We had zero for the game.”

The Buffs pulled within five with just under a minute to play on a Williams drive but the Rams answered with a dunk to break CU’s full-court press and a free throw to clinch the win.

“We weren’t our best tonight and we needed our best,” Boyle said. “We didn’t have to play perfect but we needed to be at our best and we weren’t at our best offensively or defensively.”

Colorado started slowly but took a 10-9 lead seven minutes in when da Silva scored off a lob from Julian Hammond III.

But the Rams responded with a 10-0 run to take control and the Buffs had no answer. CU did manage to pull within five, 21-16, on a Simpson drive to the bucket but Colorado State reserve Joe Palmer drained a pair of long 3-pointers to push CU’s deficit to nine, 27-18.

The Buffs shaved the deficit back to six when a Hammond basket with 2:41 left in the half cut CSU’s cushion to 28-22.

But Colorado State closed the half on a 13-4 surge in the final 1:41, aided by a pair of Colorado turnovers down the stretch. Colorado’s ninth miscue of the half came with just 2 seconds on the clock, leading to a CSU layup and 41-26 lead at the break.

TURNING POINT: While Colorado did close the gap in the second half and make a game of it, the decisive stretch came in the final three minutes of the first half. After the Buffs closed the deficit to six, CSU outscored Colorado 13-4 to take a 15-point lead at the break.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs let a golden opportunity for a quality road win slip away but still have a chance at some quality non-conference wins ahead.

KEY STATISTICS: Colorado shot 54.5 percent from the floor (30-for-55), including a 20-for-29 second half (69 percent) … The Rams were 27-for-53 from the floor, including 9-for-22 from 3-point range, and they converted 15 Colorado turnovers into 17 points.

NEXT UP: The Buffs return to Boulder for a 3 p.m. home game Sunday against Pepperdine at the CU Events Center (Pac-12 Network).


Story by Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor for Content courtesy of the University of Colorado at Boulder.