"I don't know if we were better or not in the first half," Colorado coach Ricardo Patton said. "I know foul trouble was a factor on the second half. That is a tough team to defend because of their size."
Richard Roby added 17 points and Chris Copeland had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Colorado (4-2), which won its fifth straight over Colorado State.
Matt Nelson had 26 points and Matt Williams added 16 for the Rams, who had trouble overcoming a shaky first half. Colorado State (5-4) had just three turnovers and shot 58 percent in the second half, but it still wasn't enough for its first win in Boulder since 1957.
"We were struggling in the first half, playing out of character and not taking care of the basketball like we should," Colorado State coach Dale Layer said. "You can't get in a hole to a good team and expect to win."
Trailing by 11 at halftime, Colorado State tried to get back in it by pounding the ball inside in the second half.
The Rams went to Nelson and Jason Smith on just about every possession in the early going, with Nelson scoring 10 points in the first six minutes and Smith cutting Colorado's lead to 48-45 with 12½ minutes left on a driving layup. Colorado State tied it at 52 two minutes later on Michael Morris' long 3-pointer and kept it close until Colorado went on a 10-4 run to lead 75-69 with 1:29 left. Nelson hit two free throws at the other end, but the Buffaloes broke Colorado State's press and Julius Ashby scored on a dunk to make it 78-71.
Colorado State kept coming, including a four-point play by Jon Rakiecki, but Hall hit six free throws and Ashby sealed it with two more in the closing seconds to give Colorado its 13th straight home victory over its instate rival -- barely.
"There was no reason for the way we defended in the second half," Copeland said. "You have to do the best you can. They have a tall team and we had to get position as best we could. They had an inside presence and we had to overcome it."
Colorado State definitely had a huge size advantage -- four players at least 6-foot-10 to just one for Colorado -- but the Rams didn't utilize it very well in the first half.
The Buffaloes had little trouble getting to the rim, repeatedly using upfakes on the wings to get past perimeter defenders, then shooting over or under Colorado State's trio of 7-footers.
And it wasn't just the guards. Freshman Marcus King-Stockton had a three-point play late in the half when he dunked over Smith on the break to put Colorado up 26-17. The Buffaloes scored 18 of their 38 first-half points in the lane and grabbed seven offensive rebounds.
Colorado State was even worse on offense. The Rams were sloppy from the start, throwing passes into the stands and shooting several airballs. Colorado State finished the first half 9-for-23 and had 16 turnovers, leading Layer to scream at his assistants in the hallway outside the locker room.
"I'd just like to get more than 25 minutes of good play out of our team," Layer said. "We're getting better, but we're not clicking on all cylinders and we're not playing for more than 20-25 good minutes."
It could have been worse.
The Buffaloes led by 11 at halftime and it could have been more had they been more patient offensively. Colorado shot just 13-of-34 and Patton spent a good part of the first half hanging his head and scowling at his players as they continued to take quick shots. Of course, it could have been expected from a
team that hadn't played in 11 days. "The layoff hurt us. It interrupted our tempo," Patton said.