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Colorado’s late-game execution left door open for last night’s ‘heist’

Jan 4, 2013, 1:46 PM EST

Askia Booker AP

Cheated. Jobbed. Robbed. Swindled. And some profane words that can’t be used here.

Those were some of the things being said by Colorado (and even neutral) fans in regards to the end of regulation in the Buffaloes’ 92-83 overtime loss at No. 3 Arizona on Thursday night.

But regardless of where one’s allegiances may lie this much is certain: had Colorado executed better down the stretch and made their free throws Arizona would have had no shot at pulling off the comeback.

Colorado finished the game 17-of-29 from the foul line, and after Spencer Dinwiddie split a pair of free throws to make the score 78-70 with 1:44 remaining the Buffaloes would miss four of their final six foul shots to end regulation.

This opened the door for the Wildcats to close regulation on a 10-2 run, and Andre Roberson’s fifth foul with 1:15 remaining put the Buffaloes at a disadvantage in the extra session.

“That’s a big reason why we lost tonight,” said sophomore guard Askia Booker, who finished with a team-high 19 points. “Coach emphasizes free throw shooting every day and we practice them every day, but under pressure and playing in a hectic environment it’s hard to make free throws.”

This isn’t the first time that Colorado has been down this path from the charity stripe either. In their Charleston Classic semifinal win over then-No. 17 Baylor the Buffaloes missed five straight free throws in the final 1:01 but ultimately hung on for the 60-58 victory.

On the season Colorado is shooting 65.7% from the foul line, a number that ranks 11th in the Pac-12.

There were also two key turnovers, one of which being Roberson’s that led to his fouling Nick Johnson to prevent what would have been a breakaway dunk (imagine if that had been ruled an intentional foul).

Without Roberson on the floor Colorado played overtime without a key cog in its attack, and after an Xavier Johnson free throw with 3:49 remaining to tie the score at 83 they wouldn’t score another point.

There are positives to be taken out of this game, most notably Johnson’s (13 points, six rebounds) performance in the first start of his career and coming off the bench Sabatino Chen (15 points) playing the best game of his career.

Many may see the officials ruling that Chen’s shot was late cost Colorado the game, but the Buffaloes didn’t do themselves any favors with their play in the moments leading up to that shot.

“It hurts because before that shot, we should have had that game early on,” said Chen. “We had a huge lead and should have finished it then.”

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.