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 in Las Vegas.
“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.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
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 in 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.
Washington State ended the season on a 17-game losing streak.
Ike Iroegbu led the Cougars 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 they didn’t want to have a letdown against the Cougars.
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 stay alive.
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 scored 11 consecutive 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 … we gave up 10 3s in the game, so you kind of pick your poison when they’re shooting the ball like that.”
USC 95, UCLA 71: Bennie Boatwright scored 19 points, and Jordan McLaughlin added 18 as the Trojans romped in the Pac-12 tournament’s opening round.
USC (21-11) built a 19-point halftime lead and never looked back. The Trojans face No. 2 seed Utah in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Thomas Welsh had 12 points to lead the Bruins (15-17), who were outrebounded 52-29.
No. 19 Duke 92, North Carolina State 89: Marshall Plumlee’s tiebreaking three-point play with 1:14 left helped the Blue Devils overcome a second-half deficit against the Wolfpack in the ACC tournament’s second round at Washington, D.C.
Plumlee was bloodied earlier in the game, possibly breaking his nose in a collision.
Freshmen Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard scored 22 points apiece for Duke (23-9), and Grayson Allen added 19.
Plumlee contributed 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
Anthony “Cat” Barber led N.C. State (16-17) with 29 points.