BOULDER — Just when the CSU Rams looked like they were going to take over against the Colorado Buffaloes, the Buffs’ Cory Higgins decided that he didn’t want the Rams to win.
Dan Vandervieren had taken over the game for CSU, scoring 16 quick points in the second half, when Higgins decided to be more aggressive, and, in the process, he slashed and shot the Buffs to victory.
Higgins scored a career-high 33 points, doing most of his damage in the second half, with 29 points coming after the break.
“The offense presented opportunities in the second half, and I was able to knock them down,” the sophomore said. “Tonight was fun.”
It wasn’t much fun for the Rams as they had to watch Higgins go to work, especially after the Rams began the second half on a 12-4 run to take a 40-32 lead after playing to a draw in the first half.
Then it was time for Higgins to take over, as he was able to attack the Rams from the inside and out, hitting 11-16 shots, including 3-5 from 3-point range and 8-9 from the free throw line.
“I think Higgins is the story of the night; we just didn’t have an answer in any way, shape or form,” CSU head coach Tim Miles said. “I was very impressed with his aggressiveness, when he started making threes, we knew we were going to have a problem.”
“He was absolutely awesome, he really was,” said CU coach Jeff Bzdelik, who didn’t allow the Buffs to change in their plush locker room this week as punishment for poor play. “He opened up that game.”
At the same time as Higgins was getting hot, the Rams were fading. The team started hot from long-range, hitting six 3-pointers in the first half, but only managed to hit 1-9 in the second after CU switched to a 1-3-1 zone.
“I felt like after we went to the zone, late in the second half, they couldn’t find a way to score,” said CU point guard Nate Tomlinson, who scored 11 for the Buffs.
Vandervieren, who was shut out in the first half, was the Rams’ offense in the second half, recording a career-high 16 points. The sophomore transfer from Purdue scored 10 consecutive points for the Rams at one point, but he couldn’t add any more points after picking up his fourth foul with 6:05 to go.
“Basketball is a game of runs, and we have to be able to respond and stop their runs,” Vandervieren said.
CSU was without forward Andy Ogide for the game, and without the Ole Miss transfer who is averaging 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, the Rams couldn’t protect the paint.
The Rams felt they were in the game, just as they have been in every game so far this season, but they know that they let Higgins take the game from them.
“It was pretty frustrating,” said guard Jesse Carr, who scored 12 points on 4-7 shooting from 3-point range. “We had scouted them all week, we knew how they liked to play, and that he liked to score in the paint, and we didn’t stop it.
“We just need to get more defensive stops.”
Men’s basketball beat writer Matthew Pucak can be reached at email@example.com.