The Coors Event Center began buzzing early on Saturday as CU students filled their section with over 45 minutes until game time, eagerly anticipating the Buff’s basketball game against #6 Kansas. Many were aware of Colorado’s 19 game losing to Kansas, and the fans came fueled with energy. There was a relentless roar throughout the 40 minutes leaving all present with impaired hearing. The meager Kansas following that somehow managed to get tickets were dwarfed in a sea of black and gold, and were either silent or unheard for much of the game. And then–pandemonium as Askia Booker hit the game winning three pointer after a nifty euro-step to get the shot off. Fans stormed the court before officials could even review the play as it was apparent to all watching that the basket would be upheld. Athletes and students celebrated Colorado’s 75-72 victory over Kansas, you really had to be there.
A few key factors in the Buff’s victory:
Ben Mill’s to the rescue
That’s right, senior center Ben Mills–who has never averaged more than five minutes per game–was solid in relief for the injured Wesley Gordon. When Colorado needed a big man to deal with the bigs of Kansas, Mills stepped up with 10 great minutes in which he recorded 4 points and 3 rebounds while playing nice defense. He was a spark for crowd noise as many fans likely thought “If Ben Mills can play well against Kansas then surely we can win.”
Askia Booker’s confidence
Normally this trait for Booker is a cause for concern because he has been such an inconsistent shooter since last year’s Charleston Classic. Booker is a nice point guard when he is creating off the drive, but he is too streaky from out side. However, he hit the two biggest baskets of the game with a buzzer beater to give the Buffs a three point lead at half, and then the game winner. He lead Colorado in scoring and his fearlessness to shoot proved a positive for the Buffs on Saturday.
Xavier Johnson setting the tone
Honestly I don’t know if the first half goes in Colorado’s favor without Johnson’s monster dunk to start the scoring for CU. It appeared in the opening minutes that Colorado left their energy in the freezing cold, and the crowd became antsy about Kansas running away at the start. Xavier woke up the offense with a thunderous dunk that was also an and one, and hit a clutch three and pair of free throws late in the game to stave off a Kansas run. Johnson had key rebounds for the undersized Buff’s and was a large reason why Colorado out rebounded the Jayhawks. Without his 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals Colorado would have been on the other side of the win/loss column.
MVP of the game: Spencer Dinwiddie
This game was about defense, and the Colorado defense is spearheaded by Spencer Dinwiddie. Both teams played stout defense, and while one might argue that Booker’s offense was the difference, the offense ran through Dinwiddie. With 15 points and 7 assists the 6’6″ guard paced the offense until the Buff’s needed him to take over as time dwindled. Dinwiddie was clutch from the charity stripe down the stretch and his 8 free throws made in 10 attempts is really what prevented Kansas from regaining the lead late. He aggressively attacked the basket and the Jayhawks couldn’t handle him in transition.
So what happens now?
The Buffaloes can now expect to be ranked. In the first 10 games Colorado is 9-1 with the lone loss coming to a Baylor team currently ranked #20. CU has won two “true” road games against Air force and Colorado State, and important wins against Harvard, Wyoming, and #6 Kansas to compile a resume worthy of a top 25 ranking. Their nine game winning streak is one of the tops in the country and the perfect record on the road in that span is impressive.
Colorado has an important three game stretch coming up as they host Elon, #9 Oklahoma St., and Georgia. The stretch is important not only because of Oklahoma State and Marcus Smart coming to town, but because those are the only games they play in the next three weeks. Teams will be accruing wins faster than the Buffs can, so a loss could potentially ruin short term hopes for a ranking. Obviously a win against Oklahoma State is ideal, however, it is more necessary for CU to avoid losses to the lesser teams in Elon and Georgia. Expect Tad Boyle to use the week break between the three games to ensure no bad losses happen.
Saturday’s matchup between Colorado and Kansas featured two touted players, who are likely first round picks, going against each other. Spencer Dinwiddie led CU with 15 points and 7 assists while Andrew Wiggins led Kansas with 22 points and 5 rebounds. Both amassed these statistics despite being sidelined for large portions of the first half due to foul trouble. Both players took control of their teams down the stretch as Wiggins kept Kansas close while Dinwiddie poured in free throws to stymie a comeback victory. Both were clearly the best on their respective teams and the game was decided by who received better support.