The Buffs got the crowd on its feet when Marcus Hall stole the ball at midcourt and fed freshman Marcus King-Stockton, who threw down a dunk over a CSU player, drawing a foul on the way. King-Stockton converted the free throw to give CU a 26-17 lead.
When 5-10 CU guard Antoine McGhee stole the ball from CSU point guard Dwight Boatner, dribbled down and dunked, it gave the Buffs a 15 point lead with under two minutes to go in the first half. CSU's John Raciecki hit a long three at the end of the period, and Colorado went into the locker room up 38-27.
In the second half, the Rams found success by pounding the ball inside to 7-foot senior Matt Nelson, who ended with a game-high 26 points on 8-of-12 shooting, and a perect 10-of-10 from the free throw line.
CSU chipped away at the Buffs' lead, finally tying it at 52 apiece on a Morris trey.
But Marcus Hall sparked the Buffs down the stretch, stepping up to the line and sinking all eght of his foul shots in the final minutes. In fact, 17 of Colorado's final 19 points were free throws. CU shot 75 percent from the line, and made 17-of-19 in the final five minutes of the game to hold off a strong CSU rally.
Things got interesting at the very end. With 18 seconds remaining and Colorado State trailing by seven points, John Raciecki hit a three and Chris Copeland committed the Cardinal sin of fouling him on the trey. Raciecki made the foul shot and pulled the Rams to within three. But the Buffs hit three free throws to preserve the win.
Hall had an outstanding game: 22 points, five assists, two steals and no turnovers in 34 minutes.
Colorado moved to 4-2 with the win, while CSU slipped to 5-4.
Points: Hall 22, Roby 17
Rebounds: Copeland 13
Assists: Hall 5
Blocks: Copeland 2
Steals: Hall 2, Arrington 2
Points: Nelson 26, Williams 16
Rebounds: M. Morris 7
Assists: Williams 4
Blocks: Nelson, M. Morris 1
Steals: three tied with one
It was a good win against a very good Colorado State team. It was a hard-fought game, as usual. I thought our kids played hard.
I thought the 11 day layoff interrupted our game timing. But we were still able to hold on and come up with the win.
Q: What was the difference in your interior defense in the first and second halves? You seemed better in the first?
RP: We just try to do the best we can. I don't know how good we were because Julius ended up getting in foul trouble. We just tried to mix our defense up. We've been playing a little 1-3-1 zone, and today we thought we had to throw some 2-3 zone. We had no answer for Nelson inside.
Q: What kind of statement do you think it made about the mental toughness of your team that you guys were able to withstand so many CSU runs at the end?
RP: In order to be a good basketball team you must be able to win close games because you're going to be in a lot of close games. There are no teams in our league that aren't going to be able to keep it close. I've always said what you learn from winning is how to win.
We made some really big free throws down the stretch. I thought Marcus Hall did a nice job. He had zero turnovers and that was big. We had 12 for the evening, and that's about where we want to be.
Q: Have you been working extra on free throws?
RP: Even when we miss free throws, we've worked on them. But we did probably a little more running for missed free throws this week because we had more time. What we do in practice as a team is each guy gets to shoot two free throws and we want to shoot 75 percent as a team. That's what we shot tonight.
Q: Marcus King-Stockton gave you some productive minutes. Is he at a point where you can expect that of him consistently?
RP: I think so. He's a guy that, one, he's eager to learn. He's getting better and better. I just think before he leaves here he's going to be one heck of a basketball player.
That finish (a strong dunk over a CSU player) going to the basket, that's a bigtime move. We've got juniors in our program that I haven't seen finish like that. For a freshman to take it to the rack that strong, that bodes well for him. He's a quick learner and he's going to get better and better.
On Marcus Hall
RP: One of the things we try to stress with all of our guards is to get better defensively. We knew when we brought him in a couple years ago that he could score. He was a scorer in high school and now he's worked hard in the offseason to get stronger. I think he has a great deal of confidence. He isn't afraid to play against anyone. He'll get better and better as long as he continues to work hard.
Q: Do you think the game was called kind of tight?
RP: (laughs) I can't comment on officiating. But I actually thought it was a well-called game.
Q: Were the emotions in the second half what you expected in this game? (CSU's Matt Williams fouled Ashby hard and the two had to be separated late in the game)
RP: Yeah. And to be honest with you, I expected the emotions to flare a little sooner. In the past, the games have really been heated. We try to talk to our guys about it. Like that last inbounds play where Roby was looking for the foul. You've got to man up at that point and realize there are no fouls. You just gotta play.
Q: What was going through your mind when you were at the free throw line so many times that late in the game?
MH: Nothing else but making them. After the first two, you just get more confident. After the first six or eight I hit, they had 13 seconds left and they didn't want to foul me, so I gave it up Rich.
On Colorado State's size (three 7-footers)
They had inside presence; they were tall and strong inside. That was an advantage on the boards and scoring wise, because they could see over us. We tried to use our quickness, and tried to not let them use their height to their advantage. Blocking out, trying not to get into a jumping game. They're 7-feet tall, they're already up there. We tried to get low and get position rather than try to jump with them.
Keith Smith Dismissed from Team
Patton announced following the game that redshirt-freshman Keith Smith had been dismissed from the team "for violation of team rules." Patton did not comment further, but word is he will not be allowed back on the squad in the future. Smith came to CU last year after having the wrong foot operated on prior to his senior year in high school in Oklahoma City. He had played in one game, at California, this season.
Matt Nelson draws first start of the season at center, after coming off the bench in CSU's first eight games. …Ricardo Patton is now 7-3 vs. Colorado State as a head coach in Boulder. … Colorado running back Bobby Purify celebrated his 23rd birthday Saturday night by walking to half court of the basketball game and drawing a name from a box. The winner received two tickets to the Dec. 29 Houston Bowl. …The Buffs have three more home games – UMKC (Dec. 21), Radford (Dec. 23) and Gardner-Webb (Dec. 28) – before hitting the road again. …King-Stockton was recruited by Colorado State, but not heavily. His mother went to CU and he grew up a CU fan.