BOULDER - The winning numbers were 1 and 40, the Powerball, 0. Vicious efforts by Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon were complimented by a gritty performance from freshman Thomas Akyazili, as the Colorado Buffaloes topped the Oregon State Beavers, 71-54.
Nobody wanted to go quite as far as calling it a "must-win" before the game but it was about as close as you could get, with the Buffaloes in danger of falling 1-3 in Pac-12 play. But the Buffaloes big men weren't about to let that happen.
"I thought Wesley Gordon's offensive rebounding and Josh Scott's defensive rebounding were the difference in this game," head coach Tad Boyle said to the media. "That was a really great effort."
When all was said and done, Scott and Gordon combined for 37 points (Scott 25), 26 rebounds (Gordon 14), and nine blocks (Gordon six).
“He's my twin. He does well, I am probably going to do well," Scott said of his partner in the paint. "He makes up a lot for everybody defensively and I think we play well off each other. When we came in out of high school we knew we would play well.”
"Defensively, he and Josh are so good together and so underrated," Boyle added.
Those two were the usual suspects in a win like that but it was the third key player for the Buffaloes that had his first "podium game" on the big stage. Freshman point guard Thomas Akyazili had eight points on 3-of-4 from the floor but it was his relentless defense and his overall attitude on the court that had Tad Boyle giving him the call for the last four minutes of the game.
"He was really guarding. Thomas is a tenacious defender," said the head coach. "Thomas finished the game because he’s playing extremely well right now. . . His assist to turnover ratio, you look in league play, is as good as anybody on our team, the best."
“It boosts my confidence," said a bloodied Akyazili who caught an elbow late. "It’s fun that coach believes in me. The last four minutes are really important so it is nice to know that he believes in me.”
Akyazili drew the assignment Boulder's most-wanted, Gary Payton II, for most of those last four minutes and put him in jail, holding Payton, who had 26 and 15 in the game, scoreless and thus putting their offense to bed.
“It was fun. He was really good," said the Belgian. "He scored a lot of points. So I just came out and tried to guard him as hard as I could. He gave me props after the game, so it was fun.”
The kid deserved props all-around for his effort and the Buffs as a whole did as well. Colorado moves to 2-2 in conference play and shifts their focus to the Ducks of Oregon on Sunday.
Gordon was a man possessed on Wednesday night. Turning it all the way up to 11 on both sides of the floor. He was credited with six blocks but effected, at least, four more. On the offensive side, Gordon had seven offensive rebounds, changing the game in the right direction for Colorado.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"Fun." -Thomas Akyazili
BY THE NUMBERS
1 - Thomas Akyazili's rank on the force.
6 - The number of blocks Wesley Gordon had in the game.
6 - Gordon's new rank on the all-time blocks list at Colorado, passing CU legend, Cliff Meeley, on the night.
32 - The number of career double-doubles Josh Scott now has.
40 - The number of blocks Gordon has on the season giving him 40 in all three years at CU.
Colorado welcomes in the Oregon Ducks on Sunday and Tad Boyle is hoping the Broncos playoff game won't deter fans from coming out to support.
"We need them on Sunday," he said. "I know the Broncos are playing but there are iPads now and you can watch the dang game at your seat in our arena if you want to. You can come and cheer on the Buffs on Sunday and also watch the Broncos, a two for one deal.”