Colorado knew it would take a heroic effort to take down Andrew Wiggins and No. 6 Kansas, and Askia Booker gave Boulder a reason to celebrate long into the night.
Booker hit a running three-pointer as time expired, as the Buffaloes held on to score a 75-72 victory on Saturday at Coors Events Center despite a late charge from the Jayhawks.
"Unless I'm in the NBA championship, that's the only thing that could top that," Booker said, via the Associated Press.
The win was Colorado's first in its last 20 tries against Kansas, which dominated the scuffling Buffaloes in their last years in the Big 12. With high-profile talents like Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden adorning the roster, it seemed almost preordained that Colorado would fall for the 20th consecutive time—even despite the team's hot start to 2013-14.
Instead, the Buffaloes turned in their finest performance of the season. After coming back from an early hole to take a 33-30 lead at the half, Colorado never trailed in the second half and at certain points led by as many as nine points.
"For our fans and our players, it's huge, absolutely," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "But I want our fans to understand, it's not about Kansas. It's about Colorado. That's where we need to get this program."
In the waning moments the Jayhawks made a strong push to get back into the game. Wiggins and Naadir Tharpe combined for nine points in the final three minutes of the contest to keep Kansas in the game, and Bill Self got two huge buckets from Perry Ellis in the last minute. Ellis first tipped in a Frank Mason miss with 31 seconds remaining, and then hit what was almost the most important shot of the game.
After Spencer Dinwiddie made one of two free-throws to put Colorado ahead 72-70 with around 13 seconds remaining, the entire building expected Self to hand the ball to Wiggins, who had scored 22 points and been the Jayhawks' best player of the night. Instead, the ball went to Ellis, who hit a layup in traffic to tie the game in the final moments.
Kansas tipped the subsequent inbounds attempt, and Colorado called a timeout with just three seconds remaining. After the Buffaloes threw the ball off Kansas to avoid a five-seconds call, Booker found a seam up the left sideline and caught the ball just before halfcourt.
Running with a defender trailing him every step of the way, Booker created some space with a Euro step and hoisted a prayer as time expired from well beyond the three-point arc.
The shot barely touched net before Buffaloes fans stormed the court. Booker tied Dinwiddie for the team-high with 15 points. Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott each had 14, and the Buffaloes prevailed despite shooting only 41.1 percent from the field and making only 22-of-37 at the free-throw line.
Wiggins was the only consistent factor for the Jayhawks, who allowed 15 offensive rebounds and shot just more than half as many free throws as their opposition. Embiid had 10 points and four rebounds off the bench before fouling out.
The Jayhawks (6-2) have now lost two of their last three games and are scuffling as in-conference play fast approaches. Their schedule won't offer a reprieve, either. Kansas takes heads to Gainesville to take on Florida on Tuesday before a contest against New Mexico next Saturday. Self's squad will very likely plummet outside the Top 10.
Meanwhile Colorado, which has made the NCAA tournament each of the last two seasons, gets an early banner win in what the Buffaloes hope will be three straight. They'll almost certainly be ranked when Elon comes to town on Friday.
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