BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – Alec Burks had 27 points and seven rebounds, Cory Higgins scored 25 points and the top-seeded Buffaloes beat Texas Southern 88-74 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday night.
Freshman Andre Roberson had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Buffaloes (22-13), who will face California — a 77-74 winner over Mississippi on Wednesday — in Boulder on Friday night.
The Buffaloes expected to be playing in the NCAA tournament this weekend and were disappointed not to get a bid Sunday.
“After it happened, it is what it is,” said Higgins, a senior who played in his first national postseason tournament Wednesday. “We had to deal with it. There are tougher things in life.”
Coach Tad Boyle said his team lacked the same intensity it had in reaching the Big 12 Tournament semifinals last week.
“Physically we played hard but mentally we had a little bit of a funk to us,” he said. “We didn’t have that mojo we had in Kansas City. A lot of that’s to be expected. I can’t fault our guys too much for it, but we have to get back to who we are.”
Harrison Smith had 24 points and Lawrence Johnson-Danner had 19 for Texas Southern. The Tigers (19-13) finished the season with two straight losses after winning 12 of 13 heading into the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament last weekend.
“If we had had half as much energy on defense that we did on offense it could have been a little different ballgame,” Texas Southern coach Tony B. Harvey said. “I really was disappointed in the way we guarded the basketball.”
Colorado used a decisive run late in the first half to take control. After Smith’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 26-23 with 5:39 left before the break, the Buffaloes surged behind Burks and Roberson. Burks scored six of his 12 first-half points in the final 4:43, Roberson had two dunks as Colorado went on a 14-2 run.
Burks’ acrobatic, reverse layup gave the Buffaloes a 40-25 lead with 2:26 left before the break. They led 44-29 at halftime.
Colorado didn’t let up in the second half. Burks started it with an alley-oop dunk as the lead grew to as many as 24. The Tigers had chances to get the lead under 10 early in the second half, but an alley-oop dunk by Shannon Sharpe and two 3-pointers by Levi Knutson gave the Buffaloes a 65-45 lead with 11:16 left.
Higgins’ jumper and a layup by Burks stretched the lead to 74-50 with 7:07 left.
“In terms of backcourts, I thought they were one of the better backcourts we’ve faced all year,” Harvey said of Burks and Higgins.
Colorado’s win made believers out of the Tigers.
“I think they should have been in the NCAA tournament,” Smith said.
Colorado shot 61 percent from the field in the game and held the Tigers to 39.7 percent.
The Buffaloes tied the school record for wins and has a chance to break it against the Golden Bears, a team they’ll see often when they move into their conference next year.
“Great preview into a Pac-12 team,” Boyle said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)