The best CU team in decades was unable to nurse a 1-point lead across the last 16 seconds of the game, allowing a simple baseline drive to score an easy lay-up before having a last-second shot from star guard Alec Burks clang off the back of the rim. 62-61. 1 Goddamn point. Season over, and 5 (probably 6) careers over in a matter of seconds. It's gut-wrenching. Unlike many other sports, basketball, with its emphasis on tournament play, sees its seasons routinely end in deafening silence. It's a cruel way for a season to end, but I guess that's just the way it is.
|Releford was able to get to the rim in the final seconds, and CU wasn't. From: the Post|
As a fan I want to be frustrated with the final sequence: the poor defense on the final Alabama inbounds play, and the lack-luster "Burks final seconds clear-out play" which never seemed to work during the season. However, I can't get over the fact that the Buffs had to continually fight just to stay in reach of a team who seemed continually ready to run away and hide.
Alabama shot an incredible 50% for the game, and the Buffs seemed incapable of stopping the Tides interior play. Star 'Bama forward JaMychal Green had 22 points in only 26 minutes as he was limited by foul trouble, and the Tide combined for a 42-16 points-in-the-paint edge. True to form, Alabama forced 16 turnovers (+5) and grabbed 11 steals, even without using their press for most of the game. Combine that turnover advantage with a slight rebounding edge (+1), and Alabama looks very rosy on the stat sheet. Had Alabama not been an abysmal 4-11 at the free throw line, I don't know how CU would've been able to even have the chance they had in the waning seconds.
|CU couldn't stop Alabama inside, and it was the Tide who wound up celebrating Tuesday evening. From: al.com|
And yet, the Buffs seemed to always have an answer in the second half. After a lack-luster first frame, which saw the team shoot under 30% from 3 en route to a 6 point half-time deficit (which I thought was closer than the first half appeared), CU came out in the second half and began to build and even hold leads against Alabama. Even when the Tide went on a painful 8-0 run to re-take a 3 point lead with just over 3 minutes to go, the Buffs were still able to scratch and claw their way back into the lead. But it just wasn't to be.
The offensive headlines for the Buffs have to go to Alec Burks, who, in all likelihood, ended his CU career with another 20 point effort in addition to his 6 boards and 4 steals. Seniors Levi Knutson and Cory Higgins also came up big. The former providing 11 of his 14 points in the second half to spur the Buffs comeback bid, while the latter chipped in 13 points to tie Richard Roby for the all-time CU scoring lead. I was also impressed by the precious few minutes chipped in by injured point guard Nate Tomlinson. Fighting through the pain left over from his shoulder separation suffered last week, he spurred the Buffs to an immediate 8-0 run the first time he stepped onto the court, and the offense looked efficient and crisp when he jumped back into the game after halftime. Had he been able to play his normal compliment of minutes, I bet CU would've won.
|Another big night from Al on a big stage, but he and the Buffs came up one shot short. From: the Post|
It's a shame this season has to end. This was an extremely enjoyable team to watch. They did themselves and their university proud the way they never said die, and routinely came back from deficits and stings of poor play to somehow continue to meet and exceed expectations. The story of the season may very well boil down to close but not quite, but that doesn't mean the ride wasn't fun. In the coming weeks I'll be eulogizing the season in more detail, but for now I'll simply say thanks to the team for kicking as much ass as possible throughout the year, and thanks to everyone who found their way to my quiet corner of the interwebs.