CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Colorado Buffaloes might be growing at faster pace than expected. The young Buffs disposed of Murray State 81-74 Sunday night at the TD Arena to win the Charleston Classic, CU’s first in-season tournament title since the 2002-03 team won the Pepsi Classic in Charlotte, N.C.
CU (4-0) got 23 points from sophomore guard Askia Booker, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, 16 from junior Andre Roberson, 14 from sophomore Spencer Dinwiddie and 13 from freshman Josh Scott. Dinwiddie was 110-of-12 from the free throw line as CU, which had difficulty from the foul line in its first two games here, hit 27 of 36 free throws. The Buffs sank 18 of 20 in the final 7:58.
Murray State (3-1) was led by Isaiah Canaan’s 21.
CU advanced to the championship game with a 67-57 win against Dayton and a 60-58 win against No. 16 Baylor. Murray State advanced with victories against Auburn (79-59) and St. John’s (72-67).
The Buffs don’t play during Thanksgiving week, returning to the Coors Events Center on Sunday, Nov. 25 to face Air Force (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
CU closed out the first half with a 5-0 run on a banked-in three-pointer by Jeremy Adams and a put-back by Roberson to take a 33-31 halftime lead. The Racers had led by as many as six points on two occasions (16-10, 23-17) in the first 20 minutes, but the Buffs wouldn’t roll over.
Tad Boyle had cautioned his team about Canaan’s long-range shooting, and it didn’t take long for the CU coach’s words to ring true. The 6-1 senior took six of Murray State’s 14 three-point attempts and hit half of them – the last two appearing a couple of steps beyond NBA range.
Canaan finished the first half with 15 point, while Booker had 14 and Roberson 10 for CU. Roberson reached double figures for the first time this season; his high in the previous three games was seven points against Baylor.
The Buffs hurt themselves with a season-worst 11 first-half turnovers, exceeding their first two game totals here by two. But they continued to compensate with defense and rebounding, holding the Racers to 35.7 percent from the field (10-of-28) and outboarding them 19-14.
CU hit seven of 11 first-half free throw attempts – not an ideal number but an upgrade from the four of 18 makes in the two-point win against Baylor.
The Buffs opened the second half with a 6-2 run, getting baskets from Xavier Johnson, Sabatino Chen and Roberson to go up 39-33, with that six-point advantage CU’s largest of the game.
But Boyle also had warned his players to keep 6-7 Ed Daniel off the glass, and the next two Racers possessions showed why. A put-back stuff cut the Buffs lead to 39-35 and a layup on the next trip made it 39-37.
Then Murray State’s three-point shooters switched on. Stacy Wilson hit one, giving the Racers a 40-39 lead, Dinwiddie banked in a trey to push the Buffs back in front 42-40, then Dexter Fields answered with a triple to give Murray State a 43-42 edge.
A back-and-forth half appeared to be underway until CU unleashed a 6-0 run highlighted by back-to-back stuffs by Josh Scott on a baseline move and Booker on a breakaway. That surge opened a 48-45 Buffs lead with just under 12 minutes remaining.
Seconds later, after Murray State coach Steve Prohm was whistled for a technical, a pair of Dinwiddie free throws sent CU’s advantage to 50-45. Things were heating up. Roberson picked up his third foul when he was called for a charge on a he-man jam over Daniel.
At the 10 minute mark, a sweet baseline move by Scott resulted in a layup and capped a 10-0 run that had opened a 52-45 CU lead. Murray State was far from done, answering with a 7-0 run capped by another trey by Fields to tie the score at 52-52 with 8 minutes left.
The next 3 minutes were all Buffs; they went on an 11-1 run highlighted by free throws from Scott, Adams and Chen; another Scott field goal from the low post and a Booker trey from the left wing.
With 5:02 to play, CU led 63-53. Murray State closed to 63-58 on a conventional three-point play by Daniel – and Roberson also picked up his fourth foul on that play.
At 1:51, another trey by Fields brought the Racers to 68-65 and prompted a timeout by Prohm. CU answered with a free throw line jumper by Booker, two free throws by Chen. Wilson hit a long trey with a minute remaining (72-68), but Scott negated with a layup and a free throw to restore CU’s seven-point lead (75-68).
Roberson fouled out with 13.4 seconds left, sending Daniel to the free throw line for a potential three-point play. But he missed and the Buffs’ lead was 77-72. Dinwiddie hit another four free throws in the final 10 seconds and this one was done.