BOULDER, Colo. (AP)—The Colorado Buffaloes broke Missouri’s press and also the Tigers’ stranglehold on their one-sided series.
Super sophomore Alec Burks, from suburban Kansas City, scored a career-high 36 points and the Buffaloes upset ninth-ranked Missouri 89-76 in their final Big 12 opener.
The Buffaloes (12-4, 1-0), who join the expanded Pac-12 next season, snapped a streak of 13 straight losses in conference openers with their first win over Missouri in nearly five years.
“It shows that we’re a different team from last year. It shows that we can play with anybody in the Big 12, anybody ranked,” said Burks, whose previous career best was a 29-point effort at San Francisco on Nov. 20. “It’s a statement game for us.”
The Tigers (14-2, 0-1) had won nine straight overall and nine in a row against the Buffaloes, whose last win over a top-10 team came against third-ranked Texas in 2003.
“It feels great, but we expected to win this game,” insisted senior point guard Cory Higgins, who scored 18 points and tied his career high with 10 boards. “We know when we play as a unit, we play together, we feel like we can beat anybody in the country. When we play defense together, we’re hard beat. And especially on the offensive end, we have too many weapons out there. I mean, we felt like we were the better team.”
Most opponents don’t take it to Missouri like the Buffs did when they kept breaking the press and aggressively pushing the pace against one of the most athletic teams in the country.
“They did a good job of attacking us, more than anything else,” Tigers coach Mike Anderson said.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle said Missouri tries “to get you on your heels,” so the key was breaking the press and then his players knowing when to attack and when to pull back and make the Tigers play more defense.
“You’ve got to make them pay for pressing,” Higgins said. “I think this team is better prepared this year to play teams like Missouri because we like to run. And they’re just giving us opportunities to run every time they press. Every time they pressed, our eyes lit up, so eventually they had to get out of it for a little bit.”
By pushing the pace, the Buffs capitalized on their altitude advantage.
“The main thing when you see them huffing and puffing like that is keep sprinting harder up and down, rim to rim,” said Colorado forward Austin Dufault, who scored 12.
The Buffs took control early on behind Burks and a solid supporting cast that included Levi Knutson with 13 points and Dufault’s 12.
The Buffaloes led by 12 at the half and were up 18 early in the second half before the Tigers, who were led by Michael Dixon Jr.’s 17 points, charged back, pulling to 79-72 with two minutes left on Marcus Denmon’s three-point play.
Missouri, which was outrebounded 47-33, couldn’t get any closer.
With 20 first-half points, Burks surpassed his season average of 19 points by halftime. He sparked two separate 15-2 runs in the first half, the second one which led to a 46-34 lead at the break.
“Every time we made a run, he did a good job of making an answer,” Anderson said. “When you’ve got a guy from our home state, he’s going to take it personal.”
Not so fast, Burks said.
“It’s special because they’re ranked, but every game is a different game,” he said. “I don’t care who it is. Just because it’s Missouri doesn’t mean it has any extra meaning for me.”
The lead was eight when the Burks got the inbounds with 1 second on the shot clock, spun and swished a basket that made it 77-67.
“Sometimes it’s your day,” Burks said.
And this day certainly was his.
Notes: Anderson said junior F Laurence Bowers was stopped for a traffic violation in Columbia, Mo., on Friday and was cited for having another person’s ID. He won’t be suspended. … Burks tied a season high with 8 rebounds.