BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Maybe Askia Booker walked. Maybe he didn’t.
At Kansas, the debate about a last-second loss to Colorado in December will be long forgotten by March.
Then again, if the Jayhawks don’t pick things up a bit, they may not be playing too long in March.
“We’re not playing very good,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after the sixth-ranked Jayhawks fell 75-72 to Colorado thanks to Booker’s 30-foot game-winner at the buzzer.
“We’re not playing good at all. The pieces just aren’t quite fitting yet and we’re trying to find ourselves.”
Instead, it’s the Buffs (9-1) who are finding themselves — winners of nine straight — while Kansas (6-2) is looking for answers following its second loss in the past eight days and its first to Colorado since 2003.
“I’m concerned because we’re not playing very good,” Self said. “I’m not concerned because I know it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Kansas overcame a deficit of nine midway through the second half, then another six-point deficit over the final 1:44 — a comeback capped when Perry Ellis hit a shot to tie it at 72 with 4 seconds left.
But after a timeout, Buffs forward Xavier Johnson squeezed an inbounds to Booker, who dribbled just past the back foot of the massive Buffs logo at center court, took two long steps and launched the shot from 30 feet.
Nothing but net.
“I’m not sure I ever thought that would happen,” Booker said.
The Jayhawks weren’t sure it should have counted.
“I thought he travelled, but you know that Euro move,” Self said. “We let him catch it. That’s a little frustrating.”
After the game-winner, the fans stormed onto the court 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 past 48 meetings between the former Big 12 foes.
MORE FROM CUBUFFS.COM: Watch Highlights From The Game
“It’s hard for me to put this win in historical perspective,” CU coach Tad Boyle said, who played for Kansas in the `80s. “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.
Freshman Andrew Wiggins led the Jayhawks, ranked as high as second this season, with 22 points.
Frank Mason had 11 and Ellis 10 as Kansas lost despite hitting 52.9 percent from the floor.
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.
Small consolation on this day, but the past 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 season, for sure.
“I hate to say this and I’m not being critical, but we didn’t think we’d be a great team by Christmas,” Self said. “That’s being totally unrealistic. In the preseason ratings, they shouldn’t have had us there. What we could be, we could play there to that at the end. There is too much stuff to learn and get over and grow.”
By Eddie Pells, AP Writer
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