Inspired Colorado claims Pac-12 Tournament

After missing out on an NCAA Tournament berth last season, Colorado has no such worries after winning four games in four days, downing Arizona to win the Pac-12 Tournament championship.

LOS ANGELES – All good things must come to an end?

Not for Colorado, which smothered Arizona guard Kyle Fogg into an awkward off-balance miss as time expired to hold on for a 53-51 win in the finals of the Pacific-12 Conference Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.

The Buffaloes' fourth win in as many days secured the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, guaranteeing them a happier Selection Sunday than they had a year ago.

That snub, Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said, served as the motivation for the week's surprising run to a title.

"If you believe in destiny, you believe in the Colorado Buffaloes because it was meant to be for us," Boyle said.

"We dedicated this game beforehand to Cory Higgins, Levi Knutson, Marcus Relphorde, Trent Beckley, Javon Coney and Alec Burks. Those six guys sat in my home last year on Selection Sunday, and they were snubbed. That inspired us."

After taking a 30-28 lead into the locker room Colorado (23-11) saw an inspired start to the second half, using an 18-8 run to open us its largest lead of the game. Carlon Brown, named the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player, and Spencer Dinwiddie each scored five points during the surge, with Andre Roberson adding a three-pointer.

However, after Brown hit one of two free throws with 11:44 left to play, the Buffaloes would be left to hold on for dear life. They went into a slow-down offense, often settling for long jump shots.

"One thing that we kind of got away from was attacking the rim," forward Austin Dufault said. "We were trying to hold the ball out by half-court, just move it around and waste some clock instead of continuing to be aggressive."

It seemed as if fatigue was finally catching up to Colorado, with three air-balled three-pointers and four missed free throws, but Dufault said it was never a factor.

"Mentally, I think we're one of the toughest teams in the country," he said. "Just some of the stuff we've been through this year proved that. Four games in four days is just another thing."

Aside from Dufault's tip-in with 9:09 remaining, the only other field goal during that stretch was a thunderous one-handed dunk from Brown with 50 seconds to play, even more spectacular than his windmill jam against California on Friday night.

Brown finished with 13 points.

"I think what you saw out of Carlon is he's a guy who put this team on his shoulder," Boyle said. "He's been more vocal than he has been all year in timeouts, in huddles, on the floor. And those windmill dunks are just icing on the cake."

Dinwiddie had a team-high 14 points, Roberson added 10 points and 11 rebounds, but it was Colorado's defense that ultimately made the difference, especially on the final play.

Dufault said the Buffaloes were expecting senior Kyle Fogg to take the last shot and that Arizona would use its trademark ball screens to try and put him in position for the game-winner.

Nate Tomlinson was able to fight through a high screen and force Fogg into the miss.

That kind of effort frustrated Arizona (23-11) all afternoon, as the Wildcats shot 36.7 percent for the game and misses all seven three-point tries in the second half.

More frustrating to head coach Sean Miller were eight missed free throws.

"The last play didn't win or lose the game," Miller said. There were so many plays throughout the course of the game that hurt us. We're not big enough to go 10 for 18 from the line."

That left Colorado to celebrate its first tournament appearance since the 2002-03 season, with 50 members of the boisterous C-Unit student section that were flown out by the school also reveling in the moment.

One of those students was allowed to cut down a piece of the net before any Colorado players or coaches, the idea of athletic director Mike Bohn.

"His leadership and bringing those students here is a testament to what he is all about," Boyle said.


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