WSU (9-12, 4-6 in Pac-12) took a one point lead with 40 seconds to go. After both teams shot a pair of free throws, the game was tied with 25 seconds to go and Colorado (12-9, 4-6) getting the final possession. KJ Simpson rolled off a screen at the top of the arc and fired a three for the lead with just four seconds to go. T.J. Bamba, returning to the court for the first time in three games from a hand injury, couldn’t get the desperation three to fall and the Buffaloes escaped with the victory.
Neither offense found a groove early. Colorado entered Sunday’s contest with one of the highest turnover rates offensively in the country. The Buffaloes turnover struggles flashed early with their first four possessions ending in a turnover. WSU’s offense was also slow out of the gate, scoring just twice from the field in the first seven minutes. After scoring just eight points in the first seven minutes, Kymany Houinsou drilled a three to kick off an 11-2 run over the next two and a half minutes to give the Cougs a 10-point lead. While the Buffs were plagued by turnovers early, they were knocking down a good number of their shots. The Buffaloes hit six of their first eight shots to keep the deficit within reach. Colorado began to limit their turnovers, leading directly to a massive 13-0 Buffaloes run — 13-2 in the last six minutes — to take the lead before half.
After a four point, two of six shooting first half, Bamba began to take the ball straight to the rack. His first take was true through the contact for an and-one. Two possessions later, Bamba went right at the interior of the Colorado defense and again drew an and-one. And just like when you’re playing your buddy in Madden, he pulled out the “if you want me to stop running that play, stop it”, scoring yet another and-one to push the WSU lead to four.
The Buffaloes responded to Bamba’s flurry of and-ones with interior offense of their own. Colorado went on a 9-0 run over the next five and a half minutes, scoring four of those points in the paint and another five from the charity stripe. As the teams jockeyed for the lead over the next seven minutes, Andre Jakimovski hit a clutch three with two and a half minutes remaining to pull back within a point. J’Vonne Hadley pushed the lead up to three with a bucket inside and Bamba answered with a bucket inside of his own.
After getting a key defensive stop down one, WSU needed to get a bucket and looked to their leading scorer. Bamba pump faked a three twice, getting two different Buffaloes to jump past him and fired off a three that wouldn’t connect. Mouhamed Gueye was there to reel in the loose rebound and kick it back out. Bamba attacked the rack this time and delivered the go ahead bucket with just 40 seconds to go.
WSU looked to trap Simpson near half court out of the timeout, but Bamba was called for a foul after trying to poke the ball free. Simpson hit both of his free throws to push the Buffs back in front by a point. Bamba again put his head down and drove inside, drawing a whistle on his shot attempt. He would hit the second of his two free throw attempts to tie the game at 55 with 25 seconds to go.
Colorado again put the ball in Simpson’s hands up top with the game on the line. Simpson used the clock, then rode off a high screen right into an open look at the top of the arc in the soft spot of the zone defense. The sophomore set and fired for the game-winning three with four seconds to go.
An agonizingly painful way to end the mountain road trip. It’s the third one-possession loss in conference play for WSU this season. The road doesn’t get much easier, WSU will welcome in the #11 Arizona Wildcats back in Pullman on Thursday.