It was a tale of two halves Wednesday night, when the Colorado Buffaloes took on Washington State at the brand new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The first round Pac-12 Tournament game started off horribly for the Buffaloes.
In the first 10 minutes, the Buffaloes shot 30 percent from the field, and allowed Washington State to shoot nearly 58 percent, including a red-hot start from the three-point line hitting five of their first seven attempts beyond the arc.
After the first half, the Buffaloes were getting outrebounded 17-15, and simply outplayed. The Cougars had three players in double digits and CU had none. In fact, the three players in double figures combined for 30 points, more points than the whole team scored in the first half (27).
The Cougars led 30-11 with under seven minutes remaining in the first half, and Tad Boyle‘s group went scoreless for over four minutes straight.
What made the first 20 minutes worst was that Washington State wanted it more. This team came into the game 12-18, (6-12), knowing unless they went on a Cinderella run for the ages, they weren’t making the big dance.
CU failed to guard the three-point line, were getting owned in the paint, and their offense looked stagnate, like it has throughout the season.
Then came their savior by the name of Derrick White, the fifth-year senior who transferred from UCCS in Colorado Springs, and has been arguably CU’s best player. He instrumented a 29 point turnaround.
In the first half, White was held to seven points.
As soon as the second half started you can see him playing like he didn’t want it to be his last game. He scored 17 points and shot 50% from the field, including two threes.
White added five assists and five rebounds to go with his game high 26 points.
Xavier Johnson put in 19, and the Buffs defense really stiffened up in the second half, only allowing the Cougars to shoot 44 percent on 8/18 shooting. They also held their opponent to 22 second half points, the lowest total since they held California to 21 points in their last game.
Over the span of their last 12 games, including this one, the Buffaloes are 9-3, which might come to a surprise to some after an 0-7 start to conference play.
The second half defense throughout the past two games has been impressive, but it also speaks to the way the team has come out of the gate. Against their next opponent, No. 9 Arizona, Colorado cannot afford to start out particularly slow. Arizona has a lot of weapons including projected lottery pick Lauri Markkanen, the seven footer from Europe.
By the time the buzzer sounded the Buffaloes won the rebound battle 37-29 and that will be one of the biggest keys if the team wants any hope of beating the Wildcats.
For now though, in a must win game, the Buffaloes are lucky to still be in the tournament.
The Buffs showdown with Arizona starts at 7pm tomorrow night on Pac-12 Network.