Furious Rally Falls Short: CU 88, Texas 79

Trailing by 22 with little more than 15 minutes remaining, short-handed Texas saw its furious comeback fall short against Colorado despite a Herculean performance from F Brad Buckman. The junior registered career bests in scoring (27) and rebounding (21)* as the Horns cut the deficit to four but dropped an 88-79 decision at Boulder.

You have to wonder if any of the CU fans chanting "overrated" (all 4,282 of them) have picked up a newspaper in the past three weeks. The fact that Texas entered the game rated No. 23 is a tribute to what coach Rick Barnes has done with the program since arriving seven years ago rather than the number of healthy bodies he has on his severely limited bench. Not counting a gimpy Sydmill Harris (whom Barnes said is playing courageously with a painful groin injury that only rest will heal), Texas' roster is down to six scholarship athletes. Six! And even that was nearly enough to upend a chronically mediocre Buffalo team on its own court.

Still, Texas has now lost four-of-five since leading scorer and rebounder P.J. Tucker was ruled ineligible on January 20. The Horns fell to 15-7 on the season and, at 4-5 in the Big 12, is below .500 in league play for the first time in the Barnes' era. Regardless of what Texas does at home against Kansas State this Saturday, the club will fall out of next week's national rankings for the first time following a school-record run of 52 consecutive weeks.

It was a game where Texas outshot (41 percent to 39 percent) and outrebounded (48 to 39) the home team, but saw 15 turnovers lead to 22 Colorado points. And that single stat proved to be the difference in the ballgame. The Horns, meanwhile, came up with just five freebies leading to only three points. Defensively, Texas threw a variety of defensive looks at the Buffaloes, opting out of its 2-3 zone late in the first period, and then mixing zone with both man and a trapping, half-court defense. It nearly worked, as Texas finally heated up from three-point land following intermission.

Texas was as frigid as the Boulder air in the first period, misfiring on eight-of-nine three-point attempts. Thanks primarily to a flurry of treys from G Kenny Taylor -- the senior was 5-of-10 from beyond the arc -- Texas connected on 9-of-20 three-balls in the second period to make it a ballgame.

The Horns did not quite get the night they needed from freshman Daniel Gibson, the team's leading scorer who entered the contest averaging 14.3 ppg. Gibson finished with 10 points (4-of-12 FG), generating a personal-best eight assists that were offset by eight turnovers. Senior C Jason Klotz tallied 16 points and eight boards, but the night clearly belonged to frontcourt mate Buckman. Following his third double-double of the season, Buckman became just the eighth Longhorn in program history to grab 20+ boards in a single game and the first since former C LaSalle Thompson turned the trick 23 years ago. Buckman was 7-of-11 from the floor in 35 minutes of work.

Freshman forwards Mike Williams and Dion Dowell made their first career starts and, frankly, played like freshmen making their first starts. Dowell scored three points (1-2 FG) while Williams went 0-for-1, misfiring on five-of-seven FT attempts. Texas was 17-of-26 from the charity stripe while CU hit 25-of-34 foul shots.

Although no one wearing Burnt Orange has conceded the season, this is a NIT-bound ballclub unless nearly every healthy body wearing Burnt Orange can elevate his game to the level Buckman did Tuesday. If it's any consolation, these kids have been forced to grow up in a hurry and the fab freshmen will be a year older and wiser next season. One of the long-term positives that may result from this winter of discontent is Buckman, game by game, becoming a warrior on the floor. He may not always connect on the four-foot chip shots but the kid is leaving nothing on the floor.

Colorado held a slim 6-5 lead despite opening 2-of-9 from the field. A pair of Buckman free throws put Texas in front, 9-8, before sophomore G Marcus Hall followed his trey with a slam dunk. Freshman G Richard Roby's layup spotted the Buffs a 15-11 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining. Chris Copeland's three-pointer opened up a seven-point CU lead after Texas misfired on its first five three-balls.

Junior G Jayson Obazuaye's FTs completed a 12-2 Colorado run as the home team led, 20-11. Klotz answered with a jumper as Kenny Taylor temporarily broke Texas' drought from beyond the arc to make it a 20-16 CU advantage. But then Williams clanked both free throw attempts as a wide open Roby knocked down Colorado's third trey of the first period to make it 23-16. Hall's three-pointer gave CU its first double digit lead, 26-16. Firing at will over Texas' 2-3 zone, Copeland hit back-to-back treys to put the Buffs up, 32-18.

Following a timeout, the Horns switched to man-to-man defense and played evenly with the Buffs during the waning minutes of the first period. Obazuaye hit paydirt during the final three seconds to send Texas into the locker room, trailing 40-25. Texas was just 1-of-9 from three-point range, had five shots blocked and committed seven turnovers during the first 20 minutes of play.

Obazuaye began the second period where he left off, hitting a tough FG to extend the CU lead to 44-25 before Buckman answered with a layup. Roby's jumper gave Colorado a 48-27 bulge. Gibson drained a trey to make it 50-33 but junior F Andy Osborn immediately answered with a three-pointer of his own. Buckman fouled Copeland just before he launched a three-pointer, and he calmly sank all three to make it 56-36. Obazuaye's steal and bucket gave CU its largest lead, 58-36.

But Klotz's shot from outside the line ignited a 21-4 run as Texas began grabbing defensive boards and limiting CU to one shot. Harris' three-pointer made it a 59-44 ballgame. Colorado switched to a 2-3 zone and Gibson promptly knocked down an NBA trey.

Klotz came up big again, with a block and a bucket resulting in a traditional three-point play. Suddenly, Texas was back in this, 59-51, with 9:46 remaining. Harris ripped his second trey of the night to make it a two-possession game at 61-55. Buckman was fouled after coming down with his 16th board as his FTs narrowed the once seemingly insurmountable deficit to an improbable four points, 61-57.

Copeland stopped the 21-4 run with a pair of foul shouts but was whistled for his fifth personal just 13 seconds later. Buckman's free throws kept it a four-point affair. With the score 64-59, Texas had a great opportunity to cut it to two but on what have been the game's biggest series, Taylor missed an open three and Hall stopped nearly seven minutes of bleeding with a dagger of a trey to halt the Horns' momentum. It sparked a 12-4 CU run as Osborn's FG rebuilt a double-digit lead at 72-61. With Texas trailing 78-65 during the final 75 seconds, the Horns began trading three-pointers for free throws. That's when Taylor unleashed a flurry of four straight from beyond the arc as Texas once again made it a two-possession game at 83-77 with 35 ticks remaining. From that point, the Buffs hit 5-of-6 foul shots while (appropriately enough for Texas), Buckman capped his team's scoring with a frustration slam.

Freshman G Roby, the current conference Rookie of the Week, led five teammates in double figures with 22 points. The Buffs raised their record to 12-9, 4-6 in league play.

The Horns return home Saturday to face Kansas State, 12:45 p.m., in an ESPN+ regional telecast.

*The original version of this story said Buckman's 21 rebounds was a Big 12 record. Kansas' Nick Collison holds the Big 12 mark with his 23 rebound performance vs. Texas in 2003.


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