Booker at the buzzer lifts CU to 75-72 win over KU
AP National Writer
BOULDER, Colo. — Long after the kids from Kansas have started raking in their NBA bucks, Askia Booker of Colorado will still be talking about the day he struck it big — the day he made the shot at the buzzer to beat the Jayhawks.
Booker grabbed an in-bounds pass, dribbled twice, took two long steps, then launched the 3-pointer that gave Colorado a 75-72 victory Saturday and left him gasping for air underneath a pile of court-storming Buffs fans.
It was Colorado’s first win over No. 6 Kansas (6-2) in the last 20 tries — a stretch dating to 2003.
“Unless I’m in the NBA championship, that’s the only thing that could top that,” Booker said.
Odds are, he won’t be. Many of these Kansas players could. There are, by most estimations, at least two lottery picks and two more first-round prospects on Bill Self’s typically stacked roster.
And, yes, that talent gap showed while Colorado (9-1) was squandering a six-point lead over the final 1:44 — a comeback capped when one of those first-round prospects, Perry Ellis, hit a shot to tie it at 72 with 4 seconds left.
But after a timeout, Buffs forward Xavier Johnson squeezed an in-bounds pass from the corner of the backcourt to Booker, who dribbled just past the back foot of the massive Buffs logo at center court — or about even with where John Elway’s courtside seats were located — and launched the shot from 30 feet.
Nothing but net.
“I’m not sure I ever thought that would happen,” Booker said.
The fans exploded onto the court, straight past Elway, and gang tackled Booker, a junior who is trying to lead the Buffs to three straight appearances in the NCAA tournament for the first time in history.
This win will look mighty good on their resume. It’s their ninth straight — CU hasn’t lost since its opener against Baylor — and it marks only the second CU win in the last 48 meetings between the former Big 12 foes.
“It’s hard for me to put this win in historical perspective,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “But for where this program is in the evolution stage, this is kind of a hump game.”
Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie led CU with 15 points each.
After Colorado left for the Pac-12, the schools kept the series going mainly because Boyle, who has led this renaissance in Boulder, is a former Kansas player. He was on the Jayhawks roster, in fact, back in 1982, when Colorado won one of its very few games over Kansas. Kansas, which won 90-54 in Lawrence last season, still leads one of the most lopsided series west of the Mississippi 123-40.
Freshman Andrew Wiggins led the Jayhawks, who had been ranked second but have now lost two of their last three, with 22 points.
Frank Mason had 11 and Ellis 10 as Kansas lost despite hitting 52.9 percent from the floor.
“We’re not playing very good,” Self said. “We’re not playing good at all. The pieces just aren’t quite fitting yet and we’re trying to find ourselves.”
CU won this game in part because Boyle abandoned his usual man-to-man defense and put Colorado in a zone, knowing Kansas was most dangerous inside, not at the perimeter.
Another key difference: Colorado shot 37 free throws — 17 more than the Jayhawks, who were in foul trouble almost from the start in this one.
Dinwiddie and Booker each missed one of two from the line down the stretch, which helped Kansas pull even after trailing 68-62.
Booker’s free throw gave CU a 71-68 lead with 18.7 seconds left, and on the next possession, Dinwiddie fouled Wiggins while he was shooting a 3-pointer. But Wiggins made only two of the free throws and Kansas had to foul.
That’s when Dinwiddie made one of two, to set up the tying shot from Ellis, then Booker’s game-winner — a nice book end, if you will, with the 3-pointer he made as the first-half buzzer was going off.
Booker’s two long steps before launching the game-winner were a topic of conversation in the Kansas locker room.
“I thought he travelled, but you know that Euro move,” Self said. “We let him catch it. That’s a little frustrating.”
Small consolation on this day, but the last two times Kansas has lost to the Buffs — 1991 and 2003 — the Jayhawks have gone on to the Final Four.
They’ll be in the mix again this year, for sure.
On this magical day in Boulder, the Colorado contingent felt like champs, too.
“For our fans and our players, it’s huge, absolutely,” Boyle said. “But I want our fans to understand, it’s not about Kansas. It’s about Colorado. That’s where we need to get this program.”
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