Bobcats cough up late lead as Buffaloes deny upset bid in Paradise Jam


Kyle Levasseur

By: Ryan Chichester


Of course it came down to free throws. The basketball Gods would not have allowed any other finish.

After missing 14 free throws on Monday night, the Bobcats were nursing a one-point lead with nine seconds remaining in what was shaping up to be a monumental upset of Colorado, who entered the Paradise Jam as a 17-point favorite against the mid-major Bobcats. The Bobcats had made 18 of their 24 free throw attempts up until the final 10 seconds, a vast improvement from their performance against Brown. They just needed a couple more to secure a statement win down in Virginia.

Freshman Rich Kelly knocked down the first, and the Bobcats were up two. So far, so good. Then it all unraveled. Kelly missed the second, but appeared to be bailed out when Alain Chigha hauled in a huge offensive board and drew a foul to send himself to the line, needing to make both free throws to seal the game. He missed both, and freshman McKinley Wright IV hustled down the court with seven seconds left, and promptly drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to rescue Colorado from certain defeat, and sending the Bobcats into painful disbelief.

The Buffaloes had made just one triple in the first 38 minutes of the game. They nailed three in the final 1:55 as the Bobcats’ 13-point lead deteriorated. Wright was responsible for two of Colorado’s late three-pointers, including the game winner. He finished with a team-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

For the Bobcats, it appeared they were poised to overcome all the odds that were stacked against them. The heavy underdogs couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half, shooting 24 percent as a team in the period while their normal leader Chaise Daniels had just two points on 1-of-5 shooting. Thanks to a stingy defense that forced the young Buffaloes to 11 first half turnovers, the Bobcats were down just three at the halftime whistle.

The Bobcats’ shooters came to life out of the halftime gates. After finishing the first half with two threes on back-to-back possessions, the Bobcats nailed two more to start the second half and continued their three-point barrage to build a comfortable lead as the Bobcats opened the second half on a 17-8 run.

Isaiah Washington and Cameron Young led the deep-shooting attack, finishing a combined 8-for-16 from downtown. Young continued to build on his impressive young season with his best performance yet, finishing with a game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds. He also made eight of his nine free throw attempts after a rough night at the line on Monday.

Unfortunately for Young and the Bobcats, the Buffaloes caught fire from beyond the arc as well, and at the more opportune time. For much of the second half, the Buffaloes looked buried, and doomed for an upset. They suffered through a five-minute scoring drought while converting just one of 11 field goal attempts that lasted until the final five minutes of the game.

Struggling to generate any offense on their own, Colorado used the full-court press to force three late turnovers by the Bobcats and slowly grind into their 13-point lead. Still trailing in the final two minutes, Colorado began fouling. Daniels and Young converted on their free throw attempts in crunch time, but the Colorado shooters continued to add pressure on the Bobcats, who eventually caved at the charity stripe for the second straight game.