PARADISE, NV – Derrick White watched Colorado’s 2016 Pac-12 Tournament come to an end in person last season. Paying his way to Nevada to watch his team while he remained ineligible due to his transfer from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. On Wednesday White had 26 points on an economical eight-of-15 with five boards and assists as the Buffaloes topped Washington State 73-63.
Once down 19 Colorado charged back in the second half led by White and his fellow fifth-year senior Xavier Johnson. X finished with 19 and hit the two biggest buckets of the game, one a tomahawk jam, the other a three which gave Colorado their first lead of the second period which they would never give back.
One member of the Boyle family after the game said that the game produced an ulcer. Certainly, an anemic first half set up an exciting second half for Colorado.
“Well, it was a tale of two halves, obviously,” Tad Boyle said postgame. “First half we were — I thought our defense was atrocious. Pathetic I think is what I told Louis on the way out to the floor. But our second half our guys really, really dialed in. And the numbers show it. Washington State shot 56% in the first half and 30% in the second half. Then the rebounding, we were minus two at halftime, and we were plus ten in the second half.”
“We were down 19 in the first half, and I didn’t realize it was even to that degree,” Boyle continued. “But we talked the last media timeout like trying to get it below 10 at halftime. We weren’t able to do that. We got it to 14. But I thought the beginning of the second half is really where we made our push. We did that last week against Stanford as well. So those explosive starts in the second half really, I think, gave our guys some confidence that we could get back in this game and win”
Johnson’s two big plays, both in the second half, not only might have extended Colorado’s year, it extended Johnson’s Colorado career.
“Ahhh I don’t know, I got haters on the team that say I can’t shoot so I had to prove them wrong,” Johnson said sharing a laugh with Wes Gordon. “Nothing but net, but seriously a lucky shot.”
Xavier Johnson gave Colorado the lead with the biggest shot of his career, Buffaloes haven't looked back. Up 7 with 30 ticks left. pic.twitter.com/p0ARR9aNZg
— Jake Stripiro (@Shapalicious) March 9, 2017
“They were big, no doubt. And Josh Fortune made a big pass to him for the dunk, and Derrick made a big-time play off the ball screen. But X made the three, he made the dunk and the and one. He made his free throws. Yeah, it was big-time. You have to make plays like that down the stretch. But I’ll be honest with you, I expect those plays. The offensive rebound that I alluded to and the backtip off the free-throw line, those are the plays that he made that he normally maybe wouldn’t have normally made, and he made them tonight at key points in the game that helped us win. So it’s easy when guys make shots. You’re pretty happy with them. But when they make those extra possession-type plays”
Those big plays for Johnson led Colorado to play Arizona one more time in his career. X against Zona has been rivalry most know about, he said postgame he just wants to play against the best.
As for White. Last season he saw Colorado go on a massive second half run against Arizona at the MGM Grand Garden Arena which fell short. This year at T-Mobile just across the street, White didn’t let Colorado’s poor first half end the Buffaloes season.
“Yeah, you kind of get the feel,” White said on experiencing Vegas last year. “It’s a different feel out here than during the regular season and during the home games. So it was a good experience last year, and it’s much better being out there playing.”
Buffs face the Cats at 7 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Network in the Quarterfinals.