Like a check engine light you refuse to think about, shooting was inevitably going to cause No. 21 Colorado a problem at some point.
Tuesday night against Clemson was that point.
For a little while.
Colorado (5-0) best Clemson (4-2) 71-67 in Las Vegas thanks to a couple huge defensive possessions in the game’s final minute.
The Buffaloes shot 8-for-20 in the first half but didn’t really pay for it because Clemson went 11-for-26. But the Tigers came out hot in the second half and soon Colorado was down double digits.
This put CU in a position you wouldn’t expect the Buffaloes to survive. A team that shoots it as poorly as Colorado does is going to have a problem making big comebacks.
Then Colorado went on a 16-3 run punctuated by a McKinley Wright steak and dunk that prompted a Clemson timeout with just under eight minutes to play.
Just when you thought the CU defense couldn’t bail out the Buffaloes again.
Going into Tuesday none of CU’s four opponents had shot better than 40 percent or committed fewer than 19 turnovers against Colorado.
Clemson is possibly the best team Colorado has faced yet. It’s definitely the first one that didn’t wilt in the second half.
The Tigers responded to the big Buffaloes run with one of their own and led 63-62 3:43 left to play.
And then ... guess what ... Colorado went to Tyler Bey in the post, and he gave CU the head. Then the Buffaloes forced a tough shot that Bey rebounded, getting fouled. His free throws capped a 9-0 CU run that gave the Buffaloes a six-point lead with 2:19 left.
Clemson had a chance to tie or win in the final minute, but McKinley Wright just straight up stole the ball. Then Bey blocked a shot the next time down to remove all doubt. Clemson became the first team to break 40 percent shooting against CU this year, but barely (40.8). CU’s shooting didn’t get a lot better in the second half — CU was 20-for-51 — but once again it didn’t matter.
One of these nights the Colorado defense won’t be able to bail it out. But the more we see if this, the less likely that looks.