BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Nate Tomlinson thought he’d cost Colorado the game.
His errant free throw with 17 seconds loomed large as Oregon’s Olu Ashaolu prepared to complete a three-point play at the other end with 7.6 seconds left and the score tied at 71.
Then, Tomlinson got both the ball and the call.
Ashaolu missed the bonus, and Andre Roberson corralled the rebound for Colorado, which didn’t have a timeout left. Tomlinson took the outlet pass and raced to the rim, where E.J. Singler hit him on his left elbow with a second left.
Tomlinson sank the first foul shot before deliberately bricking the second to give Colorado a 72-71 win over the Ducks Saturday night.
“I wouldn’t have been able to sleep until next week if I would have missed that one,” said Tomlinson, who sped toward the hoop with the intention of scoring a basket, not drawing a foul.
Tomlinson said if he had tried to deliberately draw the whistle and lean into his defender, the official “probably wouldn’t have called it. But if I try to score, and he stops me from scoring, I think they have to call the foul.”
“The ref made a good call,” Tomlinson concluded.
Singler thought so, too.
“The point guard made a good play, got to the rim, attacked, and the ref … good call,” Singler said.
Said Tomlinson: “He played pretty good (defense), he just caught my elbow at the end.”
Singler figured he had no choice.
“I felt I did the right thing,” he said. “The kid made a good play.”
Oregon coach Dana Altman was hoping for a non-call and overtime, but said the whistle at the end was just “part of the game.”
A big part.
“There was no question he got fouled,” Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said. “I was just hoping there were ticks on the clock when the whistle went off. It was a smart play by Nate at the end, which is what you expect from your senior point guard.”
After all, Boyle said, Oregon got the call moments earlier.
“Officiate the game from start to finish, because we got the ball to the rim. If a kid gets fouled, it’s a foul. They called a foul on us with Ashaolu at the other end; he just missed the free throw. I didn’t have any beef with that call,” Boyle said.
Buffaloes guard Askia Booker called it a veteran move by Tomlinson to attack the basket.
“He didn’t settle for a jump shot,” Booker said. “He wouldn’t have gotten the call if he didn’t attack the basket.”
Booker fouled Ashaolu with 7.6 seconds left as he made his eighth bucket. But Ashaolu went just 1 for 6 from the stripe and missed the one that would have put Oregon ahead by a point.
Tomlinson’s game-winner atoned for a miss on the second of two free throws with 17 seconds remaining that left the Buffs with a 71-69 lead.
“I kind of threw us in the deep end missing” that one, Tomlinson said. “So, I knew I had to do something at the end.”
Before Tomlinson put the finishing touches on the win, the freshmen guard duo of Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie kept the Buffaloes in it, along with Roberson, who collected a career-best seven blocked shots and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Booker’s 17 points and Dinwiddie’s 16 helped the Buffaloes (16-7, 8-3) remain perfect at home in their first season in the Pac-12, improving to 7-0 in league play in Boulder.
“Our two freshmen played big-time basketball when the chips were down,” Boyle said. “Tonight’s game is where those two guys grew up.”
Devoe Joseph led the Ducks (16-7, 7-4) with 18 points, Ashaolu scored 17 and Singler added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
The Ducks, who lost for just the second time in six league games on the road, hadn’t played in Boulder since Dec. 2, 1983, when they lost by a bucket. They also lost in their only other trip here, in 1960.
The Buffaloes missed all eight of their 3-point shots in the first half but stayed in the game by hitting 15 of 16 free throws and went into the locker room trailing 37-33.
“We knew we hadn’t played our best basketball,” Dinwiddie said. “So, it wasn’t like we had given everything that we had and we were down. There wasn’t any type of despair or any type of negativity. We were like, `You know, we’re only down four and we played bad.”‘
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)