The Colorado Buffaloes (9-6, 1-2) stunned the college basketball world on Thursday night at the Coors Event Center. Following a disappointing 0-2 start to conference play, CU won their Pac-12 home opener in spectacular fashion, upsetting the (No. 4/6) Arizona State Sun Devils (12-2, 0-2), 90-81 in overtime. It is the highest ranked team Colorado has defeated since 2003 when the Buffs upset the No. 3 Texas Longhorns. The win also marks the 16th over a Top-25 program in Head Coach Tad Boyle’s tenure in Boulder.
Colorado stumbled out of the blocks again with another slow start as the Sun Devils opened the game on an 11-0 run before the first media timeout. Despite making just two of their first 13 shots, the Buffs kept fighting. They ended the first half making seven of their last 14 field goals, and trimmed a 12-point ASU lead to five at halftime, 34-29. Neither team shot particularly well from the floor in the first half, CU at a 33 percent clip and ASU at 38 percent.
Out of the locker room, the Buffs came ready to prove point. Colorado limited the No. 1 scoring offense in the Pac-12 to just 34 percent from the field while shooting 55 percent from the field themselves and 50 percent from behind the three-point line. A very back and forth second half saw Colorado cut the deficit down to one possession several times, unable to take the lead until the 8:42 mark on a layup from Tyler Bey. Fast-forward nearly eight minutes and CU led by six, 73-67, with 1:17 to play in regulation.
ASU capitalized on multiple lapses in concentration from the young Buffs team down the stretch and evened the score at 74 on a Mickey Mitchell dunk with 5.9 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, McKinley Wright IV turned the ball over at half court as the Buffs failed to call a timeout to set up a last second-shot as time expired in regulation.
Colorado put together a really strong performance in overtime behind stellar play from Wright IV, George King and Namon Wright. Together they combined for 14 of the Buffs’ 16 points they scored in overtime as CU secured the upset.
Wright IV led the way for the Buffaloes, scoring 17 of his 19 points in the second half and overtime, adding three rebounds (all on the offensive end, all enormous), five assists and two steals. Namon Wright also provided 19 of the Buffs’ 38 points off the bench and hauled in seven rebounds. Dom Collier was pivotal playing in a reserve role totaling 11 points, six assists with just one turnover. George King played like the senior leader many expected him to be on a nightly basis this season and had his best game thus far in conference play. King tallied 18 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks in the winning effort.
The Sun Devils suffered their second-consecutive loss on Thursday night and now have begun 0-2 in Pac-12 play. The conference’s leading scorer, Tra Holder surpassed his nightly scoring average of 22, pacing ASU with 24 points in the loss. Kodi Justice added 16 points and Shannon Evans II chipped in with 11. Arizona State will look the end their skid as they wrap up their Pac-12 mountain road trip on Sunday, January 7th at the Utah Utes (10-4, 2-1).
Colorado now leads the all-time series with Arizona State, 8-7 and has won 7 of 8 in Boulder. Despite being one of the biggest wins for the program in the last 20 years, the celebration will be short lived. The Buffs have a quick turnaround now as they have to prepare for the (No. 14/16) Arizona Wildcats (12-3, 2-0) on Saturday, Jan. 6 (coincidentally, that is Tad Boyle’s birthday). Arizona’s starting five is as good as any team in the country. They are led by star freshman DeAndre Ayton and preseason Naismith award watch list member, Allonzo Trier. Colorado will look to pull off the unthinkable as tip off is slated for 12 p.m. MST.