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Colorado and Buffalo fill Classic semifinals


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POSTED: Monday, December 29, 2008

Add a dose of heartbreak to a month and a half of Pepperdine's frustration.

The Waves were on the cusp of ending an 11-game losing streak. Then Buffalo reserve Andy Robinson hit an off-balance 12-footer with 0.8 seconds left to give the Bulls a 72-71 overtime victory in the opening round of the 45th Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Bulls teammates mobbed "A-Rob" after Pepperdine was called for an offensive foul before it could inbound the ball for a desperation shot.

The Waves' Mike Hornbuckle could have been the hero when he scored off an assist from Rico Tucker with 12 seconds left in OT to put his team up 71-70.

Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon had other ideas. He inserted five guards into the game for a drive-and-kick play coming out of a timeout. But when Robinson noticed the passing lane to teammate Calvin Betts was cut off, he pulled up for the jumper himself.

"As time ran down, my only instinct was to take it and shoot it, so that's what I did," said Robinson, a senior reserve who was the Bulls' leading scorer last year. "I had a pretty good look at the basket. I have a really good first step, and if I beat him a little bit I knew all I had to do was fade a little bit to the right to get the shot off."

Buffalo meets Colorado in the Classic semifinals today at 5 p.m.

The agony continued for Pepperdine, which won its season opener against Division II Cal State Monterey Bay on Nov. 14. Since then it's been nothing but futility as the Waves (1-12) dropped their 12th straight overall and second in overtime. They face Coppin State in the consolation bracket at 1:30.

The Bulls (6-4) of the Mid-American Conference steadily worked themselves back into the game after facing a 14-point deficit with 15 minutes left in regulation.

Buffalo came into the game shooting a terrific 40 percent on 3-pointers as a team, but the Bulls couldn't buy a basket early. That changed as the Bulls bulled their way for loose balls and went on a 9-2 run to tie things up at 61 with 2:20 left. Robinson had a fadeaway in regulation to win it from almost the same spot as the overtime game-winner, but he failed to draw iron.

Buffalo's early effort against the lowly Waves was puzzling, considering the Bulls hung with No. 2 Connecticut in early December and lost only 68-64. They struggled to 25.8 percent shooting in the first half (including 1-for-14 from 3-point range) and appeared ready to fold, but didn't.

"We came out a little sluggish," said Robinson, who finished with 12 points. "We didn't shoot too well, but we had a little fight in us and all we did is fought, fought and fought back."

Bulls guard Calvin Betts had team highs of 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Lorne Jackson and Rico Tucker scored 14 apiece for Pepperdine.

The Waves broke things open again to start overtime with six quick points. But the Bulls couldn't be denied and shot 5-for-8 in the extra period.

"It means a lot because No. 1, we had three overtime games last year and didn't win any of them," Witherspoon said. "We didn't play well in the first half, and you don't know how your guys are gonna respond when they don't play well until they don't play well."

Pepperdine coach Tom Asbury, in his first year leading the Waves since 1994, couldn't be reached for comment after the game.

 

Colorado 80, Coppin State 63

Cory Higgins scored 21 points on just 4-for-5 shooting to lead the Buffaloes (7-3) past the Eagles (1-9).

Higgins made all 12 of his free-throw attempts, grabbed 10 rebounds and assisted on four baskets for a strong all-around performance.

Coppin State's Tywain McKee, one of the top scorers in the country at more than 20 points per game, was held to just nine after battling foul trouble in the first half.