Colorado Edges No. 23 UNLV in NCAA Second Round, 68-64|
March 16, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Freshman reserve Askia Booker scored 16 points and Andre Roberson had 12 points and 16 rebounds, helping Colorado fight off a furious UNLV comeback for a 68-64 victory at The Pit.
The 11th-seeded Buffs (24-11), who bullied their way into March Madness for the first time in nine years by winning the Pac-12 tournament as a No. 6 seed, suddenly can't seem to do anything wrong. The team that got snubbed by the selection committee last year and used that as fuel for this season has won five straight games with its season essentially on the line.
CU's next test is against No. 3 seed Baylor, a winner over South Dakota State earlier and a former Big 12 rival of the Buffs.
For the first 25 minutes of this game, Tad Boyle's team played with a freedom and looseness that makes the game look easy. Never as easy as early in the second half, when Austin Dufault made back-to-back 3-pointers and Carlon Brown followed with another to push CU's lead to 49-29.
UNLV went on a 26-8 run and cut the lead to two on Justin Hawkins' 3-pointer with 4:20 left. From there, though, UNLV (26-9) missed its next seven shots. Brown made a windmill dunk - reminiscent of those he slammed home late in Pac-12 wins over Arizona and Cal - to help CU regain its bearings, then the Buffs made 4 of 8 free throws in the last minute to hold on for the win.
The team that led the Mountain West with eight 3-pointers a game just five weeks ago made nine in this one - but on 36 attempts. They missed their first seven.
"Our shooters felt comfortable. Everybody felt comfortable. We just didn't make shots and they did," guard Anthony Marshallsaid.
Marshall scored 15 and Hawkins had 11 for the Runnin' Rebels, who started Dave Rice'sfirst season as head coach at 16-2 but lost six of their last 11 and didn't win away from home after Jan. 28. Their last two appearances in The Pit - the first against to the actual tenants, New Mexico - have resulted in a pair of losses by a combined 24 points.
UNLV's comeback was impressive, but trailing by 20, it would have taken a near perfect final 15 minutes and the Rebels came short of that.
"We made a fight," Marshall said. "Never rolled over and just kept battling. It's very disappointing and hurtful for our seniors. They put in so much time and effort into the program over the years. They've been tremendous. So to go out like this is very disappointing and hurtful.
The ending was dicier. Colorado was standing around, seemingly trying to run out the clock for a while. Colorado turned the ball over 23 times - 10 of those in the last 10 minutes. But for a team that wasn't expected to be here 10 days ago, all wins are pretty.
The Buffaloes, who made a rather unheralded move to the Pac-12 this season, are now the only team left in the tournament from the conference.