BOULDER, Colo. – Colorado earned its catharsis.
In front of a sellout crowd that would have few rivals for rowdiness in the history of the Coors Events Center, the Buffaloes avenged a loss to Arizona earlier this season by beating the ninth-ranked Wildcats 71-58.
The Buffaloes thought they had beaten then-No. 3 Arizona on the road to start Pac-12 Conference play back on Jan. 3, but officials made one of the most controversial decisions of the college basketball season by overturning a banked-in 3-pointer at the buzzer and the Buffs lost in overtime. Colorado coach Tad Boyle said watching video replays that seemed to show officials made the wrong call made him sick to his stomach.
Boyle and his players and Colorado fans lived with that feeling in their stomachs for six weeks before getting their chance at revenge Thursday. There was no mistaking how much Colorado wanted the Wildcats. Two hours before the game started as players were just beginning to filter on the court to warm up, the scoreboard read Colorado 3, Arizona 0, an obvious reference to those disallowed points back in January.
Arizona coach Sean Miller said he didn't think many teams could have conquered the Buffs and their crowd.
“It would have been hard,” Miller said. “I think some of the best teams in the country would have had to come in here and play a great game. This was an electric atmosphere and playing against a team that played really hard and they were ready and they played really well on offense.”
The Wildcats didn't seem rattled by the environment, but they didn't shoot well, particularly from distance in the first half. They made just one of 10 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes allowing the Buffs to seize control. Colorado point guard Spencer Dinwiddie continued his strong play of late by scoring 17 of his 21 points in the second half, helping to stop every run the Wildcats made.
The Buffs surrendered a 17-point lead in the first meeting and weren't about to fall apart down the stretch again. Dinwiddie said he and his teammates are learning to close out games, and the loss to Arizona was a big part of that.
“I just think we were more poised down the stretch,” Dinwiddie said. “We got stops which was the biggest thing against Arizona the first time.”
Suddenly the Buffs (17-7, 7-5) are not only looking like an NCAA tournament team but they must be considered at least a contender to win the regular season Pac-12 championship. They are two games behind first-place Oregon, but they play four of their final six games at home where they are 42-5 over the past three years, including hosting Oregon the final week of the season. Their two road games are at Stanford and Cal, teams they beat in Boulder just a few weeks ago.
CU is 3-2 against ranked teams after beating the Wildcats and also holds a victory over Colorado State which was unranked when they met in December but is now in the top 25. Boyle now faces the challenge of preventing his team from falling off a cliff with a big emotional let down when Arizona State visits Saturday.
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