BOULDER - It was a game neither coach was wild about playing, but the way it was lost made the night infinitely more difficult for Tad Boyle to forget. Ahead by three points with 10.6 seconds to play, Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes couldn't allow No. 22 Texas A&M a trey to tie and offer the Aggies another 5 minutes to win.
The Buffs allowed both on Wednesday night, eventually losing 73-70 in overtime to a team coached by one of Boyle's closest friends.
"This one will be with me for a long, long, long time," Boyle said after his team was beaten only the second time in 14 games this season at the Coors Events Center. "This one stings because we had the game won and let it get away. It doesn't matter who you're playing . . . I've got ultimate respect for A&M, but I feel like we lost this game."
This was the scenario that Boyle undoubtedly replayed well into Thursday morning:
After the Buffs went ahead 60-57 on two free throws by Alec Burks with 10.6 seconds left in regulation, A&M Coach Mark Turgeon called timeout with 4.1 seconds to play. Boyle said he normally isn't "a foul guy," meaning he isn't prone to having his players foul to prevent a three-point attempt.
But this time was different. On the thought of fouling at the end of regulation, CU senior guard Levi Knutson said, "Yeah, we did. We wanted to foul with four or five seconds on the clock, and right when we were about to they called a timeout."
When play resumed, Boyle said there was a "miscommunication" when A&M in-bounded the ball. "The plan was to switch every screen. If they put the ball on the floor we wanted to foul. Normally, I'm not a foul guy. Up three, let's take our chances. I just felt how the game was going, there was four seconds left and the only way they would be able to beat us was get the game into overtime . . .
"There was a miscommunication. There was a down screen set, we didn't switch it and they hit the three."
B.J. Holmes' uncontested straightaway trey tied the game at 60-60 with 1.9 seconds left. The game was headed for OT and CU was headed for a demoralizing defeat. With Boyle conceding that his players' "heads got down a little bit" at the start of the extra period, the Aggies surged to a six-point lead, held the Buffs at bay in the final minute and broke a three-game losing streak.
"I take this loss as the head coach of Colorado on my shoulders," a disappointed Boyle said. "We weren't prepared as well as we should have been down the stretch for that situation and I have no one to blame by myself."
Turgeon, who was instrumental in steering Boyle back into college coaching, said he "hated this . . . I had to make a fool out of myself a couple of times tonight (he was assessed one of his team's two second-half technical fouls) to let everybody know that we were here to fight - and I hated to do it.
"It was no fun playing against him. He's a great coach. I wouldn't be where I am without Tad Boyle . . . It's a really hard (postgame) handshake."
"This is going to sting for a while," Boyle said again. "(But) we cannot and will not feel sorry for ourselves. Saturday we'd better be ready to come out and pull the nails out of the floor."
With two home games in four days and the mid-section of the Big 12 Conference standings bloated by eight teams within a game of each other in the loss column, Boyle had dubbed this "Separation Week." And at times Wednesday night his team appeared ready to distance itself from A&M and the others.
But the Aggies, despite leading only twice in regulation, stayed true to Turgeon's methodical, fundamental approach. They outrebounded the Buffs 40-29, outscored them in the paint 42-28 and 18-4 off the bench, and limited run-craving CU to four fast-break points. CU hit only three of 12 shots (25 percent) from the field in overtime and 24 of 62 (38.7 percent) for the game.
Four Aggies reached double figures, headed by Nathan Walkup's 18 points. Moreover, Walkup collected eight rebounds, and Boyle said the 6-foot-7 senior "got every big rebound when a big rebound was to be had - either on the offensive end or the defensive end. He was the difference down the stretch."
Just as instrumental, though, was 6-8 junior David Loubeau with 14 points and nine rebounds. Boyle said Loubeau "made some big-time post moves - he's a big-time player."
CU had a couple of those in Burks (24 points) and Cory Higgins (19), with Burks becoming the 27th CU player to reach 1,000 points in his career. In the final 9:23 of regulation, the Buffs hit only three field goals - all by Higgins. None of their teammates reached double figures, although Marcus Relphorde and Austin Dufault had nine points each.
Losing for the sixth time in their last seven games, the Buffs fell to 15-10 overall and 4-6 in the Big 12 after a 3-0 conference start. The Aggies improved to 18-5, 5-4.
Boyle started a different lineup and was forced to juggle his personnel frequently for the first 20 minutes. With point guard Nate Tomlinson still hobbled by an ankle injury suffered at Missouri, Knutson made his third start of the season.
Less than 4 minutes into the half, Dufault went out with an apparent ankle injury and didn't return until almost 6 minutes later. Then there were two quick fouls picked up by both Higgins and Burks, limiting their first-half minutes to 10 and 14, respectively.
Nevertheless, the Buffs managed to establish a nine-point lead - their largest of the half - on a Relphorde three-pointer that put them up 26-17 with 4:36 left before intermission. But that was CU's last field goal of the half, and patient A&M began cutting into its deficit. Although the Aggies never led in the first half, they outscored the Buffs 9-2 over the final 4:23, with a pair of Burks free throws accounting for his team's only points.
When Boyle took his bunch to the locker room, CU's nine-point advantage had been trimmed to 28-26. The Buffs outscored the Aggies 6-2 to open the second half and opened a 34-28 lead. A&M closed to 47-46 on a put-back by Khris Middleton, then took its second lead in regulation - 48-47 - on a baseline drive by Walkup.
If the Buffs weren't reeling, they were close. They misfired on consecutive possessions, but so did the Aggies. Burks was fouled at the top of the key, then again when Kourtney Roberson threw an apparent elbow, drawing another technical foul.
Burks hit both ends of his one-one, Higgins made both of the free throws from the 'T' and then buried a three-pointer from the left wing. CU had pulled off a seven-point possession, and with 5:32 to play led 54-48.
But the Aggies weren't close to being done. A conventional three-point play by Walkup closed the margin to 58-55 with 3:04 remaining. Walkup then rebounded a Burks miss on the other end, and Loubeau's jump hook cut CU's lead to 58-57 with 2:02 left.
Boyle called a timeout with 1:32 remaining on the game clock and 7 seconds on the shot clock. After Higgins missed a short jumper, the Aggies rebounded but turned it over.
Boyle wanted another timeout with 44.1 seconds on the game clock and 17 seconds on the shot clock. This time, Burks missed his jumper, and with the shot clock off Turgeon took a time out with 25 seconds to play.
A&M worked the clock to 11 seconds before Middleton missed inside. Burks got the rebound, was fouled and hit two free throws, giving CU its 60-57 lead with 10.6 seconds showing.
After Turgeon called timeout with 4.1 to play, Holmes hit his long three-pointer to send the game into overtime. A&M went up 66-60 in the extra period before Higgins finally got CU its first points, hitting a pair of free throws to cut A&M's lead to 66-62. The Buffs got to within three (70-67) on a trey by Dufault, then to within two (72-70) on a trey by Relphorde with 12 seconds left.
Holmes made one of two free throws with 8 seconds to play, giving A&M its 73-70 lead. When Knutson missed a long three with a second left, CU was done. "It definitely hurts," Knutson said of the loss. "But we've got Kansas State on Saturday . . . we've got to move forward."
The Buffs face K-State at 7 p.m. in the second game of a men's-women's doubleheader at the Events Center. The CU women play Texas Tech at 4 p.m. in the first game.