70 mph winds, a slew of illnesses, a missing point guard, and a damned tough Kent State team couldn't keep this magical Buffs team from shooting off to New York. With CU's 81-74 win over the KSU Golden Flashes last night, the Buffs earned their golden ticket to the NIT's final four, and did it in the gritty and determined fashion that they've played with all season.
|No, that's not the wind, that's the students celebrating the 18th home victory of the season. From: the BDC|
Minutes into the game I could already tell things were off. Cory wasn't running with the purpose I've come to expect out of him, nobody could hit a jumper, and interior defensive cohesiveness was lacking. It's now understood that many of the players were sick with the flu. That, combined with the absence of point guard Nate Tomlinson, who was sidelined with a separated shoulder, and the opponents star player having a hell of a night, might have spelled loss to a lesser team. But these guys know how to stare down seemingly impossible odds, and pull a win out of the fire.
They did it last night through another stellar performance from sophomore Alec Burks. The outstanding guard, who puked in the first half and took an IV during halftime, powered through his illness to fill up the stat sheet. His final line included 25 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 big steals. With Kent St punching back like no team had yet in this tournament, CU needed every bit of his performance.
|Alec soared high in what was probably his final performance in the CEC. From: the BDC|
Burks performance, outstanding as it was, needed support, and it was provided in the form of Marcus Relphorde's 17 big points, and yet another double-double from freshman Andre Roberson. However, the whole team had to step up considering the issues they were facing.
|With many of his teammates struggling through illnesses, Marcus Relphorde jumped up with 17 huge points. From: the BDC|
This win wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, Kent St made sure of that with 44 points in the paint powered by the 20 points from star forward Justin Greene. The 6-8 New York native played as well as advertised in his attempt to win a trip home, and seemed to be able to match Burks play-for-play on the evening. He also showed of a deft touch on interior passing, racking up 6 big assists, and made CU look bad on their off-ball interior defense. Greene had a hell of a night, and it wasn't til very late in the game before CU could slow him down.
Resilient to the end, the Buffs saw KSU take a lead with 7 minutes left in the second half only to go on a 17-7 run to close out the game. The Buffs just would not be denied last night, and they now head to the Big Apple where they have as good a shot as any to walk away with the title.
|High-fives all around. But, there's still 2 games to go. From: the BDC|
Now if only I can figure out a way to see them in NYC...