Belief fueled upset bid

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Mike Bohn is in a tough spot with his football program. Colorado's athletic director is spending the week here in paradise mulling over the future of Dan Hawkins, whose job is obviously in serious jeopardy with a 16-32 record through nearly four seasons.

But it appears that Bohn has a pretty good thing going on the men's basketball bench. Head coach Jeff Bzdelik is one of the most respected coaches in the country and Steve McClain is a pretty strong assistant.

On Monday, the Buffs -- playing without Bzdelik, who left Maui for Chicago to be with his ailing mother -- nearly pulled off a huge upset at the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

CU led by as many as 15 points in the first half before eventually falling to Gonzaga, 76-72, in the opener at the Lahaina Civic Center.

"What I like is it really hurts," said McClain, who ran the bench in Bzdelik's absence. "Because the kids expected to win. That's what I like. And that's what I told them in the locker room after the game, for the first time since we've been at CU they walked on the floor believing they were going to win the game."

The Buffs got off to a strong start and led 22-18 after a highlight-reel run that included a dunk by Cory Higgins, back-to-back 3-pointers from Casey Crawford and Keegan Hornbuckle, and back-to-back layups in transition by Crawford and Marcus Relphorde.

Three more makes from behind the arc -- by Crawford, Alec Burks and Austin Dufalt -- extended CU's advantage to 31-21 with 7:31 in the half.

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few watched helplessly as CU made six of its first eight (75 percent) 3-point attempts.

"They run an intricate offense, the Princeton-style offense, and when you don't have a lot of time to prepare, you can get sliced and diced. We got sliced and diced," Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. "We were under fire from a very skilled team. I'd call them a great offensive team right now."

Burks scored on an offensive rebound and Higgins cashed in another open look from behind the arc to make the score 36-21 with 5:32 remaining.

The Buffs finally cooled off down the stretch but still led 40-29 at the intermission.

CU shot 55.6 percent (15-for-27) from the field and 63.6 percent from behind the arc (63.6 percent) in the first half. Gonzaga shot 39.1 percent (9-for-23) and made three of its six 3-pointers.

Seven different Buffs scored in the first 20 minutes, led by Crawford with eight points. Steven Gray kept the Zags within striking distance with 14 first-half points in 18 minutes.

"I thought Colorado did a phenomenal job preparing for us," said Few, whose Gonzaga 2002 Gonzaga team was upset by McClain's Wyoming team in the NCAA Tournament. "Steve McClain knows us and they were ready. It was obviously a game they were pointing towards. They spread us out and made shots."

Few wisely switched to an aggressive zone defense that slowed down the tempo and forced CU to hold on without getting any open looks from behind the arc.

The Buffs did not make a 3-pointer after the intermission (0-for-4), and Bouldin scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half.

"They started playing a little more zone and doing more switching. In the first half they were getting caught," Crawford said. "It was a little more difficult (offensively) because we had to just drive."

After a field goal by Shane-Harris Tunks with 12:25 remaining, the Buffs still had an 11-point lead (56-45).

The Bulldogs (3-1) answered with a 12-1 run and tied the score 57-57 on an old-fashioned three-point play by Elias Harris with 8:23 left.

With 4:35 remaining, Bouldin gave Gonzaga its first lead (67-65) since an 18-15 cushion early in the first half.

"We were getting beat to the ball, we were getting out-hustled, they seemed to want that game a little more in the first 20 minutes," Few said. "But it's a great sign that my guys were able to get into halftime and turn things around."

A tough basket in the paint by Burks brought CU within 70-69 with 1:03 remaining, but Bouldin answered with a field goal on Gonzaga's next possession.

Coach Steve McClain

The Buffs had possession of the ball trailing 73-70 when Nate Tomlinson aggressively drove into the lane and was unable to draw a foul or find an open teammate before committing a costly turnover.

"I felt like with 19 seconds left we didn't have to shoot a three. We still had a timeout, and Nate felt like he'd drive in there and get a foul," McClain said. "He didn't get it. He'd be the first one to tell you he wishes he would have just planted, turned around and thrown it back to somebody.

"There were are a lot of plays in that game where somebody could have done something better, but we didn't. You give Gonzaga credit for that."

A layup by Higgins made it a two-point game with 4.6 ticks left, but Bouldin calmly iced the game at the line.

"It meant a lot," Bouldin, a former ThunderRidge High School star, said of beating CU. "I've been playing with those guys all summer long. I've known a lot of them since high school and grade school. It was nice going against them, but I really wanted to win."

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