After a thrilling forty minutes of back-and-forth play in a huge rivalry game, the University of Colorado Buffaloes bested the Colorado State University Rams in the final minutes, 67-62. With this win, the Buffs increased their winning streak to eight games, with the first game of the season accounting for their only loss so far. They haven't lost since then.
After the game, freshman guard Jaron Hopkins summed it up in two words: "I'm speechless."
In what freshman junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie described as their "first true road test in a hostile environment," the Buffs were definitely challenged.
Both teams struggled offensively throughout the entire game, with free throw shooting being their only bright spot. Both shot 75% or better from the foul line.
The Buffs only shot 40.4% from the field (23 for 57) and 15.8% from the three-point range (3 for 19), but still managed to play a better offense than the Rams despite their shooting woes. They held the Rams to 33.3% from the field (19 for 57) and 21.4% from behind the arc (3 for 14).
"We were stalling offensively; that's why I kind of decided to get more aggressive," said Dinwiddie, who led the team with 28 points, 2 steals, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds.
Although it wasn't a career-best game for Dinwiddie, he still reached a big landmark through Tuesday's game: in scoring his 28 points, he became the 30th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark with 1,003. His best career-game came last year, when he put up 29 points to defeat the same Rams team.
To counter their poor shooting percentages, the Buffs fell back to a good defense. As a unit the Buffs collected 11 steals for the night, with five players contributing two apiece: Dinwiddie, Askia Booker, Jaron Hopkins, Wesley Gordon, and Josh Scott.
"It wasn't a pretty game offensively," said head coach Tad Boyle. "When you go 3 for 19 from the three, it's tough, but I'm proud of our guys. We made plays when we had to, and Spencer was the big difference."
The first half of Tuesday night's game got off to an incredibly slow start, with the first score of the game coming off of a Buffs free throw at the 18:50 mark. They held on to that lead for the next minute, until the Rams matched it with a free throw of their own to tie up the game, 1-1.
The Rams pulled ahead with a dunk from Gerson Santo thirty seconds later, and held on to that lead for the next six minutes. After going down by as much as three with 11:51 left on the clock, the Buffs kicked it into gear and outscored the Rams twelve to two over the next five minutes.
When the clock reached seven minutes, the Buffs were up 19-12. But the Rams weren't ready to turn over so early. They went on a hot streak of their own, outscoring the Buffs eleven to four over the next three minutes.
The Rams tied it up at 23 with just under four minutes left in the first half, and slightly bested the Buffs going into half time. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Rams held a four-point edge, 34-30.
Throughout the half, both teams struggled offensively, as was shown through their shooting percentages going into halftime.
The Rams shot 35.5% from the field (11 for 31) and 22.2% from the three-point range (2 for 9). Their free throw percentage saved them, going 10 for 13 from the line for 76.9%. The Buffs weren't shooting much better, going 36.7% from the field (11 for 30) and 10% from behind the arc (1 for 10). Their free throw shooting, on the other hand, was their kryptonite, as they shot 53.8% (7 for 13) from the foul line.
In addition to these shooting deficiencies, a plethora of turnovers from both teams plagued the first half. After the first twenty minutes of play, each team had committed nine turnovers apiece.
Going into the second, the Rams got on the board first with a quick layup from Jon Octeus (30-36). Askia Booker responded quickly with a two-point shot of his own to keep them within four (32-36).
The game followed the same pattern for the next minute and a half, wherein the Rams would score two and the Buffs would follow suit. After trailing by four for the first two and a half minutes, the Buffs picked up a little momentum and managed to tie it up at 40 with just under 17 minutes left of play.
They gained their first lead of the half nearly two minutes later, when a pair of free throws from Spencer Dinwiddie put them up 42-40. The Rams tied it right back up thirty seconds later, when Santo added a pair of free throws of his own, 42-42.
After that, the game went back and forth. The score was tied two more times throughout the next four minutes, and then the Rams went on a shooting tangent. They acquired two separate five-point leads over the Buffs, the first coming in at the 10:47 mark (46-51) and the second coming in a little over a minute later with a score of 48-53.
With four and a half minutes left in the game, the Buffs came back to tie it up once again at 55 points apiece. Then it got interesting again.
Both teams remained neck in neck until the final buzzer sounded, and Moby Arena was rocking. Nobody was sitting during the final four minutes.
The score was tied yet again with just over three minutes remaining, when a pair of free throws by Daniel Bejarano brought the score to 58 all.
The rest of the game, the Buffs maintained a slight lead over of the Rams. With 24.8 seconds left on the clock, the Rams managed to get within one point (63-62), but they wouldn't score for the rest of the game.
Dinwiddie, the star of the night, sunk a couple free throws with 14.3 seconds left, putting the Buffs up 65-62. Colorado State's last chance to tie it up came a few seconds later, but J.J. Avila air-balled a three-point attempt and missed their last chance of winning the game.
With three seconds left in the game, Booker sealed the deal with another pair of free throws and handed the Buffs their tough victory, 67-62.
"Colorado State: my hat's off to them," Boyle said. "Their fans were great, and this is a big time environment. Non-conference games are supposed to help you prepare for conference play, and this game tonight helped us get better."
The Buffs return to their home court on Saturday, Dec 7 at 1:15 to take on the 6th ranked Kansas Jayhawks.