The Buffs had a good run, but it’s time to head home.
Despite a second half rally, Alabama beat the Buffs in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament Tuesday night, losing 62-61.
At Madison Square Garden in New York, the “Mecca of Basketball,” CU wanted nothing less than to win the NIT. It would prove to fans (and the NCAA Selection Committee) that they could have held their own in the NCAA Tournament.
Now, the fans will have to take that on faith.
The Buffs had a slow start, falling behind Alabama 13-7 in the first seven minutes. But Colorado then went on a 10-1 run, gaining their biggest lead of the half at 13-17.
For the rest of the half, they were slower to find the basket, seeing their largest deficit of the game, 30-19, with three minutes left in the half. At halftime, the Buffs found themselves in an all-too-familiar position, trailing 36-30.
Alabama widened its lead to 40-30 early in the second half, but Colorado responded, going on a 6-0 run to bring the score within four points. For the remainder of the game, the score stayed close.
With 15 minutes left, Colorado turned up the energy. A pair of three-pointers by senior guard Levi Knutson and a free throw and field goal by senior forward Marcus Relphorde brought the score to a tie at 47-47 with 11 minutes to go.
Senior guard Cory Higgins then hit one of two free throws, bringing CU into the lead, 48-47.
Over the course of the next 10 minutes, the lead would change five times. Both teams knew what was at stake.
With a field goal that gave the Buffs their biggest lead of the game at 52-57, Cory Higgins tied Richard Roby for CU’s school record for career points scored (2,001).
That lead didn’t last, though. The Crimson Tide surged its way back to a 60-57 lead with 2:54 remaining. Colorado responded with a free throw by sophomore guard Alec Burks and a dunk by freshman guard Andre Roberson, bringing CU into the lead, 61-60.
With 36 seconds to go and Colorado up by one, Alabama took a timeout. When play resumed, Alabama’s Trevor Releford hit a field goal that gave Alabama a 62-61 lead.
After a tense timeout, Colorado had 9.1 seconds to make something happen. Burks shot from the top of the key, hoping to save the game, but his shot couldn’t find the basket.
The Buffs‘ season was over.
The show must go on, though: Alabama will play Wichita State in the championship game of the National Invitation Tournament on Thursday night at 5 p.m., MDT.
Although the Buffs came up short of a championship, their season was a successful one. Colorado’s 24-14 record was a seasonal best for CU basketball, an impressive accomplishment for the team, as well as for first-year head coach Tad Boyle.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Caryn Maconi at Caryn.firstname.lastname@example.org.