Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Grab Bag: On to Vegas

Busy, busy week ahead as the basketball world steams towards Selection Sunday.  I hope to have the Rumblin' Awards up tomorrow, with daily previews posted from Vegas as the week rolls along.  For now, however, it's time for some weekly business.

Today in the bag, it's all about basketball. I'm talking the men's regular season finale in Pullman, the women's statement in Seattle, and how the rest of the Pac-12 ended their seasons.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs let a win slip through their fingers - 

Oh, so close!  Up two with the ball and just 10 seconds to play, it seemed as if all Colorado needed to do was get the ball in bounds to Askia Booker, and they would beat the Washington State Cougars on the regular season's final day.  It was not to be, however.  Ski did collect the inbounds, and was expectedly swarmed by Cougs, but the refs didn't see the traditional foul.  Instead, they saw a held ball, which gave possession back to WSU.  Senior DaVonte Lacy knocked in the game-tying bucket on the ensuing play, and Wazzou went on to roll in overtime.  96-91, one more kick in the gut by 2014-15.
Considering the ugly finals accumulated in February, it's easy to forget that the Buffs had been painfully close to victory in most of their losses in December and January.  This effort was more akin to those, but, thanks to the emotional removal of a down year, it wasn't nearly as heartbreaking. For the record, I get the held ball call.  I see the arms and hands on Ski's back, but I also see a tie-up in possession.  It could go either way, and I can't really get too pissed about it.  If anything, it only further emphasizes to me that alternating possession over a true jump ball is obnoxiously pedantic.  From there, Lacy's shot on his senior day was perfunctory, and two quick threes by WSU at the start of the extra frame essentially ended the contest.  It is what it is.

In spite of the loss, I was impressed by two of the Buffs stars.  First and foremost, Josh Scott was a monster, putting up 32/12 in 40 minutes of play.  I keep saying he's not healthy, but he was running better this trip, and it showed in his performance - beating defenders down the court, jumping freer than before, and otherwise dominating the paint.  His performances have been trending up, leading me to believe his back is truly recovering.  Askia Booker also had a nice game, outside of the held ball, posting 26 points in his final regular season action.
Josh is starting to look healthier, and the points are flowing to prove it.
The problem with the overall team effort, though, was the lack of defense being played throughout.  It was a wide-open, fast paced affair, not necessarily to CU's advantage.  Played to 79 possessions (including overtime), the Buffs allowed the run-and-gun Cougars to shoot over 51% from the floor, including 9-18 from deep.  While the Colorado offense was capable of responding, and generally played a strong game away from home, #TadBall is not meant for games in the 180s.  Eventually, CU just couldn't keep up the pace.

The loss leaves the Buffs in 10th place, with an uncomfortable date on Wednesday against the Oregon State Beavers.  Tip-off is scheduled for 7pm MT, with coverage available on Pac-12 Networks.  I'll have my Day One teaser up Wednesday morning from the plane.

Women go on a run in Seattle - 

For 48 hours, at least, the University of Colorado owned the city of Seattle.  The women's team, that had struggled as mightily as the men's this winter, took to the Pac-12 Tournament with aplomb, pulling off successive upsets to storm into the semifinals.  While they would fall on Saturday to end the run, their spirit, energy, and competitiveness lived up to the standards of the program, and are a credit to Coach Linda Lappe and crew.
A joyous stand from the ladies in the Emerald City. From:
It all started late Thursday evening, as the 9th-seed Buffs took out the 8th-seeded USC Trojans 75-63. Colorado was lights-out effective on offense, shooting 53% overall, 5-7 from deep, and 20-23 from the line. While Southern Cal would collect 23 offensive rebounds, they were nowhere near enough to counter the efficient CU offense, or their own 29% shooting.  But nines beat eights all the time, right?  No big deal. What made this weekend special, however, was what the ladies cooked up Friday night.

Following up on Thursday's success, the Buffs pulled off the upset of the tournament, stunning the top-seeded Oregon State Beavers 68-65.  The Buffs used a beautiful combination of timely shooting and defense to earn the win, going 6-9 from deep, and holding the Beavers to under 34% from the floor.  The star for Colorado was senior Lexy Kresl (eventually selected to the all-tournament team), who scored 19 points, mostly off of a perfect 5-5 stroke from deep.  Her early points set the tone for the evening, but it was her last two, off of a perfect cut to the rim, that sealed the win.  Never before, in the history of the Pac-12 Tournament, had a nine ever advanced past the #1 seed. 
CU toppled the heavily favored Beavers - a historic achievement.  From:
The miracle run, however, would go no further; not that they didn't have their opportunity, though. In the semifinals against Cal, Colorado ground out an early lead that seemed to have them on the same winning track of the first two rounds. CU just couldn't stop the Golden Bears from getting to the line, though, and turnovers started to pile up.  Into the second half, a stifling defense kept CU at bay, never allowing them within five points.  Eventually, the game settled to a 68-55 final.

At two games under .500, even the NIT isn't in the cards for the women, but they showed a lot of fight in Seattle which could serve as a jumping off point for next fall.  More immediately, I hope their example can inspire the men on a similar upset drive in Las Vegas.

Around the rest of the Pac-12 - 

Washington 77 - Utah 68 -

What the flying hell?  How could Utah, so ferocious a monster, lose to frickin' Washington.  Not two days before, Colorado had made the Huskies look foolish, now they're stomping a team with Sweet Sixteen aspirations?  I just don't get this sport anymore.
Somebody stop that man!
The problem for the Utes was that they could not contain Nigel Williams-Goss.  The sophomore point guard was everywhere, scoring 28 points on 18 shots.  While Utah did a good job countering with Jakob Poeltl against the soft UW underbelly, it just wasn't enough.  Overall, this wasn't the defensive performance I've come to expect from Coach K's squad, and it's a little worrying headed into more leveraging tilts.

Oregon 65 - OSU 62

Utah's loss was Oregon's gain, as the Ducks' Civil War win over the Beavers helped slingshot them into 2nd place.  One of the top-five games played in the league this season, UO had to hold on throughout, as a raucous Gill Coliseum crowd was into it from the opening tilt.  Eventually, a defensive breakdown from OSU and some clutch free throw shooting from the Ducks sealed the win.
All smiles for the Ducks.
Of note, in a game decided by a single possession, Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle ceded the opening two to Oregon by playing his walkons at the start of the game.  A nice gesture from the first year coach, but you can argue that it was the difference between winning and losing.

ASU 74 - Cal 70 -

The only other game of consequence this weekend was played in Tempe.  ASU earned 5th place in the Pac-12 thanks to a trio of strong performances from Shaq McKissic, Savon Goodman, and Gerry Blakes.  They combined for 55 points on 57% shooting.
The Sun Devils had a great weekend, sweeping the Bay Area schools.
The Sun Devils came roaring back from an 0-4 start to conference play (at one point, I even convinced's Adam Butler to name them the worst team in the league) to finish 9-9.  They've won five of their last seven, and are a quiet dark horse headed into the conference tournament.  I'll tell you right now, they can beat UCLA on a neutral floor, setting up a rivalry tilt with the UofA in the semis.  Currently a 33-1 shot, according to Bovada, they might be worth an investment once I hit the sports book...

Happy Monday!

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