By Chris Derrett
In the final minutes of Saturday’s tight game, the Colorado defense wanted the ball in anybody’s hands but senior LaceDarius Dunn. Too bad.
Dunn was a perfect 8 of 8 from the charity stripe in the final 1:27 and scored 26 points as Baylor erased a 17-point deficit to beat the Buffaloes, 70-66, at the Ferrell Center.
The Bears (14-6, 4-3) trailed the entire game until Dunn drained a pull-up jumper with 2:58 left in the game and put his team ahead, 58-57. From there Colorado (14-8, 3-4) went 4 of 12 from the field while Dunn iced the game from the line.
But ask Dunn, and he’ll say his most important statistic of the night was neither points nor free throws. He recorded six assists, one shy of a career-high.
“I’m not just an offensive player. I just have to do other things to get my other teammates shots and do whatever we have to do to get the ball in the bucket,” Dunn said.
Dunn’s last assist came after he gave the Bears the 58-57 lead. He sliced to the basket and kicked out to a wide open A.J. Walton, who connected from 3-point range.
Considering the Bears’ 49 second half points, coach Scott Drew was asked if Saturday was the best second half he has seen from his squad this season.
“Against a quality team, yes. That’s a pretty good half, holding them to 32 percent,” Drew said.
The Bears pulled within striking distance several times in the final 20 minutes. Dunn’s bucket and free throw at 14:45 brought the score to 41-35, the closest it had been since Colorado was ahead 8-2. Three minutes later freshman Perry Jones III, who tallied 14 points on the day, hit a jumper and made the score 44-42.
Dunn evened the game at 54, the first tie of the contest, with a pair of free throws with just under five minutes to go.
“I thought Corey [Higgins] did a terrific job on [Dunn] in the first half, and then LaceDarius got going in the second half and made some shots. He’s a hell of a player,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said.
For the Buffaloes, Higgins scored 16 points, and NBA prospect Alec Burks had 20.
Much of the Colorado’s damage came in the first half when it had more momentum, cohesion and energy than the home team.
Levi Knutson’s 3-pointer answered one from Dunn and gave the Buffaloes a 15-5 advantage just after the 13 minute mark. Knutson’s bucket was the first following a sequence in which Andre Roberson snagged two offensive rebounds but missed three shots in the same possession.
Roberson finished with 10 offensive boards, part of the Colorado’s 19 in the game.
A similar possession ended in points for the Buffaloes, when Austin Dufault caught an offensive rebound, missed a putback attempt, grabbed his own rebound and finally laid the ball in unguarded.
The play drew boos from the crowd and illustrated what Drew felt was the problem in the first half.
“I think they were more of the aggressor. They got all the loose balls and they got the 50/50 balls,” Drew said.
Turnovers also plagued the Bears in the period, as 13 turnovers became 12 Colorado points. The Buffaloes used junior Quincy Acy’s turnover with less than a minute left to earn two free throws and build their largest lead of the game at 35-18.
“We went into the locker room at half and realized we needed to get it together,” Acy said.
Acy finished with 13 points, joining Dunn and Jones III as the Bears’ double figure scorers.
Acy was not in the starting lineup, again to help provide a spark off the bench. J’mison Morgan instead started but played only three minutes with no statistics in the box score.
Along with Acy, freshman Stargell Love made significant contributions off the bench albeit netting only two baskets. Love’s first bucket, an offensive rebound and dunk with 30 seconds left in the first half, provided a momentum boost heading into the locker room. In the second half, Love hit a fadeaway jumper to pull the Bears within 52-50.
“He finishes the half in a great way for us, getting that bucket. We come in the locker room, and second half he continues to give us a lift,” Drew said. “We don’t win this game without him.”