LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tad Boyle ran out onto the floor to break up a late-game scuffle and came back limping. The Colorado coach initially thought he might have torn his Achilles’ tendon, though the team doctor believes it to be a calf injury.
Whatever it is, Boyle will deal with it. His Buffaloes are moving on in the Pac-12 tournament after hurting Arizona State’s NCAA Tournament hopes, and that’s all that matters.
“I felt like I got shot in the calf,” Boyle said following Colorado’s 97-85 victory over Arizona State in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday. “I hope it’s not my Achilles. It’s a tough blow, tough one. I’ll take it. I’ll sacrifice my Achilles for the win, though.”
Led by talented freshman point guard McKinley Wright IV, the Buffaloes (17-14) shot their way past Arizona State and put a dent in the Sun Devils’ NCAA Tournament chances.
Wright nearly had a triple-double, finishing with 20 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Colorado made 13 of 21 from 3-point range and took control of a close game with a 15-1 run midway through the second half.
The Buffaloes shot 54 percent overall and made 18 of 20 free throws to earn a spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals against No. 15 Arizona.
“We didn’t want to lose our first game and be back in class Thursday morning,” said Colorado’s George King, who had 12 points. “We like it out here in Vegas, so hopefully we can get three more.”
Arizona State (20-11) had a pair of long stretches without a field goal in the second half and went 12 for 21 from the free throw line to lose a game it needed to win.
Remy Martin had 20 points to lead the Sun Devils, who may have an anxious Selection Sunday after being ousted so early in the Pac-12 tournament.
“I felt like we were in the tournament coming into this game regardless of the outcome,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “We were the last undefeated team in college basketball. We went and played high level opponents on the road and on neutrals.”
Arizona State came to Vegas still in decent NCAA Tournament shape. The Sun Devils went undefeated in nonconference (12-0), with resume-boosting wins at Kansas and neutral site over Xavier.
But Arizona State labored through the Pac-12 season to finish tied for eighth with Colorado, so a first-round tournament loss would make the Sun Devils sweat a little on Selection Sunday.
Arizona State and Colorado split the regular-season series. The Buffaloes had a 90-81 overtime win in Boulder and the Sun Devils won 80-66 in Tempe.
Round three was a 3-point shooting contest in the first half.
Colorado made 7 of 11 from behind the arc and closed with an 8-0 run to lead 41-37. Arizona State hit 6 of 14.
Colorado kept making 3s, hitting 5 of their first 6, and went on a 15-1 run to go up 71-61. The Buffaloes kept hitting shots and scoreless stretches of five and four minutes kept the Sun Devils from making up ground.
Colorado was crisp on offense, thanks to Wright’s leadership, and tightened down defensively during its big run to earn a shot at top-seeded Arizona.
Arizona State had too many breakdowns on defense and too many missed free throws to assure itself of an NCAA Tournament berth.
The Sun Devils tried fouling to try making up ground in the closing minutes, but the Buffaloes kept making free throws, so they backed off. With the shot clock winding down and under 10 seconds on the game clock, Wright threw an alley-oop to Tyler Bey, who was not defended by Arizona State.
Sun Devils senior guard Tra Holder took offense to the play and shoved Bey to the ground, setting off a scuffle that was mostly pushing and shoving. Boyle was injured and assistant coach Mike Rohn appeared to have a red mark on his forehead.
Holder, teammate De’Quon Lake and Colorado’s King all received technical fouls.
“I take full responsibility for that,” Boyle said. “We certainly weren’t trying to rub it in their face. We haven’t gone over that situation a lot and that’s my fault as a head coach. But we’d never want to take a turnover, but we don’t want to maybe throw an alley-oop lob and make somebody feel like we’re showboating.”
Colorado moves on to face No. 15 Arizona in the quarterfinals.
Arizona State will play in a postseason tournament, but it’s unclear which one after this loss.
By JOHN MARSHALL, AP Basketball Writer
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