LAS VEGAS (AP) — Washington State was intent on not letting Josh Scott beat them.
Scott didn’t mind at all, calmly kicking the ball out so his teammates could knock down one open shot after another.
George King scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half as the Cougars focused on Scott, helping Colorado run away from Washington State for an 80-56 victory Wednesday in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament.
“We played through him,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “He demands so much attention that he makes life easier for these other guys, and that’s really what team basketball is all about.”
Colorado (22-10) took advantage of Washington State’s persistent double teams on Scott, working the ball around for open shots while building a 19-point halftime lead.
King got many of those, finishing 7 of 12 from the field while Scott finished with six points, five rebounds and five assists.
The fifth-seeded Buffaloes move on to meet No. 4 seed Arizona in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“It’s a great feeling, especially after being in a slump the last couple games,” said King, who scored 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting the previous two games. “It’s like a little weight off my shoulders. Finally one goes in.”
The 12th-seeded Cougars (9-22) kept it close early, but were no match for Colorado once the Buffaloes got going to end the season on a 17-game losing streak.
Ike Iroegbu led Washington State with 13 points and Josh Hawkinson finished with 14 rebounds, though he was held to eight points on 3-of-9 shooting.
“I just didn’t feel like we had any energy or any juice in the game,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said. “I felt like Colorado had a lot of energy and lot of juice, with obviously something they’re playing for … a victory to get themselves into the tournament.”
The Buffaloes had a strong NCAA Tournament case heading into Las Vegas, though didn’t want to have a letdown against the Cougars after blowing a 14-point second-half lead in a regular season-ending loss to Utah.
Colorado and Washington State met twice during the regular season and the Buffaloes won both: 75-70 in Pullman, 88-81 in double overtime in Boulder.
Scott didn’t play in the second game and the Buffaloes needed a last-second 3-pointer by King at the end of the first overtime to extend the game.
The Cougars clearly did not want Scott to beat them, double teaming him on nearly every touch.
The strategy worked early. Scott missed the only two shots he took and Washington State managed to keep the Buffaloes in reach.
But Colorado began to pull away late in the first half behind King.
The sophomore guard scored 11 straight points for the Buffaloes and had 17 by halftime — five fewer than Washington State.
“We double teamed him a couple times early just to kind of keep him off rhythm,” Kent said. “But understanding and limiting him, we gave up ten 3s in the game, so you kind of pick your poison when they’re shooting the ball like that.”
Colorado also began to shut the Cougars down, too, holding them to 7-of-27 shooting in the first half, including 0 for 6 on 3-pointers.
King slowed a little in the second, but the Buffaloes didn’t, making 7 of their first 12 shots to build the lead to 59-33.
Colorado: Boyle is 11-4 in conference tournament games at CU, which includes a season in the Big 12. … The Buffaloes lead the all-time series with WSU 9-2.
Washington State: The Cougars have not won a Pac-12 tournament game since 2009. … Hawkinson received a technical foul in the second half for hanging on the rim after missing a dunk and trying to stuff the ball in the basket on the carom. …
Colorado faces No. 15 Arizona in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Washington State’s season is over.
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