After winning its first four games of the season by double-digit margins, No. 21 Colorado was taken to the last 6.2 seconds by Clemson on Tuesday night at Las Vegas in the MGM Main Event championship.
The Buffaloes, who won 71-67 to improve to 5-0, are still riding the wave of momentum going into Saturday’s non-conference game against Sacramento State (4-0) at Boulder, Colo.
That’s because the Buffaloes rallied from a 50-38 deficit against Clemson with 14:39 remaining. Four straight points from Evan Battey sparked a 16-3 run, capped by a steal and breakaway dunk by McKinley Wright IV that gave the Buffaloes their first lead of the game with 7:59 remaining.
Clemson had a chance in the waning seconds with the Buffaloes leading by two points, but Wright recorded a steal and converted two free throws with 6.2 seconds remaining to secure the win.
“This is going to help us. It’s a quality opponent, and I can’t emphasize how well-coached Clemson is,” said Colorado coach Tad Boyle, whose team returns 13 players and all five starters from a team that won 23 games last year.
“Our guys did a good job of not letting them frustrate them. We’ve certainly got a lot of room for improvement at the offensive end of the floor.
“But, this team has something about it. I think it’s character. I think it’s toughness. I think it’s resiliency. All the things that you have to have to win close games. It’s the first close game we’ve had all year. The mental toughness that we’ve talked about the last couple years that maybe at times we’ve lacked, we didn’t lack it tonight.”
Wright finished just 3-for-13, but he also had five assists and each of his two steals came at critical moments. Las Vegas native Tyler Bey was named the tournament MVP, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots.
Colorado went 24-for-25 at the free throw line, making 24 straight after Bey missed the Buffs’ first attempt.
Sacramento State is coming off a 77-72 win at Pepperdine last Saturday. The Hornets are off to a 4-0 start for just the third time in the program’s Division I era (starting in 1991). The 1999-2000 and 2015-16 teams also accomplished the feat. No team in program history (beginning in 1948) has ever started a season 5-0.
Sacramento State center Joshua Patton was named the Big Sky player of the week after wins over UC Davis and Pepperdine. The fifth-year senior and team captain averaged 19.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocked shots per game while shooting 71 percent (12 of 17) from the field and 93 percent (14 of 15) from the free throw line.
Patton has 151 career blocked shots and needs just two more to break the program’s record.
Sacramento State is second nationally in scoring defense (allowing 49.8 points a game, and opponent field-goal percentage (31.9). The Hornets also rank third nationally in defending 3-pointers (opponents shooting only 19 percent).
“You hope it becomes a consistent thing, and defense is contagious,” Sacramento State coach Brian Katz said. “If we’re still doing this after 30 games, that means we will have won a lot of games, and that’s exciting.”
–Field Level Media