CORVALLIS, Ore. - The hard way might be the Buffaloes' way, but they seem to like it. Whatever works . . . and right now, it's working quite well in Colorado basketball.
On a Sunday night highlighted by Spencer Dinwiddie's perfection and another show of grit by his teammates, CU rallied to beat Oregon State 72-68 and earn its first Pac-12 Conference road sweep.
"I'm not sure we deserved to win that game, but we found a way to do it," said CU coach Tad Boyle, whose team overtook No. 19 Oregon 48-47 on Thursday night in the final half-minute. "This team is really growing up before our eyes in terms of some guys stepping up when they have to step up."
Put Dinwiddie at the head of that line. On Sunday night in Gill Coliseum, the stellar sophomore guard was perfect from the field - six-for-six, including four-of-four from beyond the arc - and hit all eight of his free throw attempts, six of them in the final 1:41. His accuracy brought the Buffs back from a seven-point second-half deficit and kept them in prime position for a February ascent in the Pac-12.
CU's difference against Oregon State, said Boyle: "We had Spencer Dinwiddie and they didn't." He scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, helping CU to go above .500 (6-5, 16-7 overall) for the first time this season in Pac-12 play.
When the Beavers switched to a zone defense (2-3, 1-3-1) shortly after the Buffs opened by hitting their first six shots, the defensive ploy played into Dinwiddie's hands. But it didn't happen until the second half; he picked up two fouls and was on the court only nine of the first 20 minutes. Oregon State took advantage, rallying from 13 down to take a one-point (34-33) halftime lead.
His second-half shooting, Dinwiddie said, "was a product of the zone. You're going to have to knock down threes to beat a team like that when they play a zone. That's the whole idea of a zone, you know? They pack it in and force you to shoot uncontested jump shots. Fortunately they were going in."
With Askia Booker enduring another off night - he was 2-for-14 from the field, making him 8-for-41 in the past three games - Boyle said the Buffs "needed some offense in the second half. 'Ski' has been struggling shooting the ball, obviously. We needed Spencer to pick it up offensively . . . (his) line was perfect although he didn't play perfectly. But his line was pretty special in terms of his offensive efficiency."
Dinwiddie wasn't sure if he'd ever played a game and not missed a shot. "I don't know; I might have," he said. "Normally I take shots I think I can make and I expect to make every shot I take. So I probably have had a game like that somewhere."
After the Buffs' torrid start, the Beavers caught them behind the long-range shooting of 5-9 guard Ahmad Starks, who hit five of nine three-pointers in the first half and scored 17 of his 20 points. In the second half, said Boyle, the Buffs wanted to "double him on ball screens and get the ball out of his hands . . . make somebody else make some shots." His offense ailing again, Booker took on the defensive challenge of checking Starks and "did a good job," Boyle said.
CU also got double-figure production from freshman Josh Scott (17) and senior Sabatino Chen (10). Oregon State (2-9, 12-12) was led by Roberto Nelson with 21 points - 17 of those in the second half.
CU started with a feverish pace, hitting its first six shots before finally missing and going up by 13 points (19-6) on a pair of free throws by Booker. But the Buffs hot hands didn't remain that way.
A 13-4 run pulled the Beavers to within 27-25 and Starks took over from there, hitting consecutive treys to tie the score at 31-31 then adding a third to give Oregon its first lead, 34-33. The half ended that way, and whatever early momentum the Buffs had was swept away.
It wasn't like the Buffs hadn't been warned about Starks: Their scouting report said he was most dangerous going to his left off the dribble - and that's what he did on four of his five first-half treys. But Booker and the Buffs clamped down in the second half, stopping Starks and the Beavers when it counted.
"We did what we had to do but it wasn't our best performance," Boyle said. "We beat an Oregon State team that is talented and better than their record indicates. I've got a lot of respect for their players and coach.
"We got stops when we had to get stops. We got out-rebounded (39-30) and we didn't guard very well (OSU outshot CU 45.6 percent to 41.4), which I'm not very happy about. But we did what we had to do to win that game."
Added junior forward Andre Roberson, who finished with a career-best five steals to go with his 10 rebounds and seven points: "It shows that we have heart and will continue fighting through adversity. I don't know if it's a good thing to be winning by coming back at the end . . . hopefully it doesn't happen like that and we start blowing people out a little more often."
The last of Roberson's five steals came when CU was battling to overtake OSU. He tipped the ball away from massive Joe Burton (15 points, 12 rebounds), chased it and flung it back in-bounds to a teammate - losing a shoe in the process.
"I knew they were trying to go inside to big Joe (he's 6-7 and modestly listed at 297)," Roberson said. "They actually tried to throw a lob and I went up with two hands and tipped it. That's when I lost my shoe; I think he stepped on it."
Boyle called Roberson "really good down the stretch on Burton when he had to be."
CU got 21 points off of that many OSU turnovers while committing only nine. The Buffs also had 13 second-chance points to the Beavers' seven.
Nelson, tied for the conference scoring lead at 18.4 points a game, had only four first-half points. But he opened the second half with a long trey from the right wing, giving the Beavers a 37-33 advantage.
The Buffs caught and passed them with a 6-0 run, going ahead 39-37 on a pair of Dinwiddie free throws with 17:51 to play. It was back and forth for the next several minutes, with neither team able to take more than three-point lead until Burton converted a three-point play with 14:22 left to send the Beavers ahead 51-47.
When Starks drained another triple from just left of the top of the key, Oregon was up 56-49 - and with 12:50 remaining the Buffs were entering dangerous territory. No matter; they had been there before on this trip and survived.
CU crept to within two (56-54) on a three-pointer by Dinwiddie over Oregon's 2-3 zone and a transition basket by Scott. Just under 3 minutes later, Dinwiddie drained another triple and the Buffs suddenly were down just a point (58-57).
After Oregon freshman Olaf Schaftenaar answered with a trey, restoring the Beavers' four-point lead, Dinwiddie struck again from long range and pulled the Buffs to within 63-62. Roberson made one of two free throws with 3:23 showing to tie the score at 63-63.
CU freshman Xavier Johnson's tip-dunk at the 2:20 mark put CU ahead (65-63) for the first time in nearly 14 minutes, and the Buffs might have been flashing back to their frantic final-minute win in Eugene. More likely, though, Dinwiddie said they were playing as they've come to expect of themselves.
"We're showing resiliency and toughness and team camaraderie," he said. "Everybody is buying in and understanding how important it is. I think the Utah game (a 58-55 loss two Saturdays back) may have done a little bit of good."
Dinwiddie made both ends of a one-and-one with 1:41 left, giving CU a 67-63 lead. But on the other end, he fouled Nelson beyond the arc, and Nelson's three free throws cut the Buffs' lead to 67-66.
At 1:10, Boyle called a timeout. With 3 seconds showing on the shot clock and 52.9 on the game clock, Dinwiddie was fouled again and hit both ends of his one-and-one for a 69-66 lead.
Oregon missed, Roberson rebounded and Booker was fouled with 29.1 seconds to play. Making one of two foul shots, he put CU ahead 70-66, but Nelson scored in the lane to pull Oregon to within 70-68 with 16.7 seconds left.
Fouled by Nelson on the inbounds pass, Dinwiddie hit both free throws and the Buffs were up 72-68 with 14.2 seconds showing. After Oregon's Eric Moreland missed at point blank range, Roberson rebounded and was tied up.
With the possession arrow favoring the Buffs, the Beavers were done. CU had its first wins at Oregon and Oregon State on the same trip since 1955.
Boyle said the pair of wins "tells me that (the Buffs) are growing up . . . they have a toughness and resolve about them that is critical to have in close games."
Another pair just like the last two could be looming - only these are at home. No. 7 Arizona, which lost Sunday to California, visits the Coors Events Center on Thursday (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network), with Arizona State following on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPNU).
CU opened Pac-12 play in January with losses at both Arizona schools, the bitter defeat in Tucson coming after a controversial disallowed three-pointer at the buzzer that sent the game into overtime.
Said Dinwiddie of Arizona's visit: "I know they're coming off a loss to Cal, so they'll be looking for a win. But we're looking for some revenge. Yeah, it's going to be a good game."