Last season, it was no secret that the Colorado Buffaloes struggled on the road all season long. Wednesday night's game at Washington State looked to be no different until the Buffs snuck away with a narrow overtime victory, 71-70.
With this win, the Buffs stayed perfect in Pac-12 play (3-0) and had the best program start in 16 games (14-2) since 1968-69.
Buff forward Josh Scott led the Buffs with 19 points, and barely missed out on his sixth straight double-double after grabbing nine rebounds. Askia Booker (18) and Xavier Johnson (14) were right behind him to contribute with double-digit scoring of their own and a combined seven rebounds.
For the night, the Buffs shot 21-for-51 field goals (41.2%), 3-for-13 from the three-point range (23.1%), and 26-for-38 from the foul line (68.4%).
Junior guard and team leader Spencer Dinwiddie was a non-factor Wednesday night's matchup after remaining scoreless for the first 32 minutes of the game. By the end of the night, he only managed to score six points and grab two rebounds.
After injuring his rib in his first game back from an appendectomy, the Cougars were forced to play without their star player DaVonte Lacy (17.7 ppg). In his absence, Dexter Kernich-Drew (24 points) and D.J. Shelton (14) stepped up for a combined 38 points and 14 rebounds to give the Buffs their closest matchup in Pac-12 play thus far.
All night long, the Cougars shot 27-for-60 from the field (45.0%), 13-for-23 from the three (56.5%), and went 3-for-3 from the free throw line.
Defense beyond the arc has been a weak sport for the Buffs all season. Earlier in the year, head coach Tad Boyle described it as a "deficiency of our team," and Wednesday night in Spokane seemed to be no different.
To start out the game, Que Johnson hit a quick three to get the Cougars up early and it took the Buffs nearly the entire game to recover. Over the next nineteen minutes, the Cougars hit six more treys to keep the lead for the entire first half.
After going down by five points with thirteen minutes left in play, the Buffs kicked it into gear to overcome the deficit. Three minutes later, they tied the score at 17, the first of three ties of the half.
Despite keeping up with the Cougars for most of the half, the Buffs started to fall behind going into the break. The score read 34-28 at the half with the Cougars on top.
In the first half, the Buffs only shot 8-for-20 from the field (40.0%) and didn't make any of their shots from the three-point range. Their free-throw shooting saved them after going 12-for-14 from the charity stripe (85.7%).
The Cougars, however, played a more solid offense all around. They shot 13-for-27 from the field (48.1%), 7-for-11 from the three (63.6%), and were 1-for-1 from the foul line. On top of that, Kernich-Drew dropped 12 points in the first half after going 4-for-6 from behind the arc.
The Buffs' woes continued during the first few minutes of the second half. They had to go down by eight points (39-31) before their offense woke up and started to fight back.
They managed to tie it up once more at 49 with six and a half minutes left in the game and again at 51 before finally getting their first lead of the game, 53-51.
With 10.3 seconds left and the Buffs leading 56-53, Washington State head coach Ken Bone called two consecutive timeouts to set up their last-chance play. They inbounded the ball and gave it to Que Johnson, who hit a huge three from the corner with 4.2 seconds on the clock.
The Buffs had one last chance to win it right there, but Booker missed a rushed three-point shot and sent the game into overtime.
Overtime was all Scott and Booker. In the final five minutes of the game, Scott contributed eight points and three rebounds, and Booker added four points off of free throws.
In the final ten seconds of the game, Washington State hit two huge threes to keep the Buffs on their toes, but in the end, the Buffs ran away with a close-call victory, 71-70.
The Buffs will look to continue their undefeated Pac-12 streak on Sunday, when they will take on the Washington Huskies (9-6, 1-1) at 1:00 p.m.