Colorado prevailed in a tight game for the sixth time this season. Washington State dropped yet another close one.
The Buffaloes seem to have a knack for pulling through in contests that go down to the wire. The Cougars are still figuring out how to finish.
“We just gotta keep punching,” coach Kyle Smith said Thursday, after his WSU team lost its sixth game of the year by single digits. “We gotta grow up and compete better.”
Colorado surged after halftime, shooting over 60% from the field in the second period and capitalizing on a couple of Coug scoring droughts during an 83-78 Pac-12 victory at the CU Events Center in Boulder.
WSU fell to 0-11 all time on the road against CU.
“We made a pretty good effort, but you’re going to have to play really well to win on the road, and we just didn’t play well enough,” Smith said.
The Cougars (8-6, 1-2 Pac-12) missed on a potential confidence-boosting victory in a well-matched game, instead stumbling late and slipping to their fourth loss in the last five games.
“We’ve got to stay consistent,” WSU guard Tyrell Roberts said. “As a whole, our team is really young, and I think in situations like this, it shows.”
Both teams were playing their first games in about two weeks because of coronavirus-related pauses.
But the opponents put on an entertaining, seesaw matchup in this one, responding back and forth throughout much of the night. That is, until the Buffaloes (10-3, 2-1) set off on an 11-0 run midway through the second half, building a 68-60 advantage at the 7:00 mark.
WSU was held without a field goal for about four minutes and scored just two points in that span.
The Cougs managed to cut CU’s cushion to just three points on a couple of occasions down the stretch, but the Buffaloes’ frontcourt tandem of Jabari Walker and Evan Battey always had an answer.
Walker scored all 16 of his points after intermission while Battey totaled 20 points on 7 of 8 shooting.
“They really showed their talents in the second half,” Smith said of the two. “We couldn’t get enough stops (on them).”
Roberts paced the Cougars with 25 points on 9 of 20 from the floor. Efe Abogidi tallied 13 of his 16 points in the first half and collected 10 rebounds – he had to sit the bench for much of the second because of foul trouble.
Guard TJ Bamba, a native New Yorker who played his prep ball in Denver, scored eight of his 14 points in the game’s first five minutes. WSU shot 46% from the field, but went 7 of 29 from beyond the arc.
The Cougs were missing standout guard Noah Williams, who is questionable to play Saturday at Utah, according to Smith.
WSU had an efficient start on offense, opening up a team-high six-point lead midway through the first after forcing six takeaways and knocking down five straight field-goal attempts.
CU capitalized on Cougar giveaways and fouls, hitting free throws and transition buckets to prevent its deficit from growing. Abogidi was a consistent force under the basket, helping WSU preserve a slim edge throughout the first half, which ended with the Cougs up 38-37.
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