BOULDER, Colo. | Colorado coach Tad Boyle made an innocent comment after a sluggish performance at the start the season: Play like that again and Xavier would beat the Buffaloes by 20.
His players received the message. They made sure it didn’t go down like that.
Derrick White scored 23 points and had a crucial block with 13 seconds remaining to help Colorado hold off No. 13 Xavier 68-66 on Wednesday night.
“It’s not like I said they were going to, I said they could,” Boyle said when reminded of his comment. “If we’re not ready to play, this team will come in and take your heart.
“I have a lot of respect for Xavier. That’s why this is a big win for our program, for our league. We talked a lot in film sessions, in practice, in meetings about players having to make plays.”
White certainly did that. This was just the sort of game Boyle envisioned when White transferred in from Colorado-Colorado Springs (he sat out last season). He made big jumper after big jumper down the stretch and had the key block.
“That’s the Derrick White I’ve been talking about, our fans have been expecting to see,” Boyle said. “You can have all the plays in the world, all the defensive concepts in the world, but if you don’t have the players who can make plays down the stretch, you’re not going to win games like this.”
Xavier Johnson added for 18 points for the Buffaloes (7-2), who posted consecutive wins over ranked teams for the first time since 2013. They knocked off a ranked Texas team at the Legends Classic in New York last month.
Colorado was 1-5 against ranked teams last season.
Trevon Bluiett scored a career-high 27 points for Xavier (7-2), which has lost two straight.
“We’re not going to pack our tent and quit playing, but we’ve gotten a reality check the last couple of times,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “We’re willing to go on the road and play in games like this. You get penalized too, so our team has got to grow up from these types of experiences because they’re not fun.”
Spurred on by the shooting of White and Johnson, the Buffaloes went on a 15-0 run midway through the second half. They kept Xavier scoreless for more than 6 minutes during the pivotal stretch.
It was a frenzied ending, though, with Xavier getting several good looks. White swatted one of those away — his only block of the game.
“It was all about stops,” White said. “That’s the most important part.”
Xavier: The Musketeers had a nine-point lead early in the second half, but struggled from the field. They shot 37.7 percent for the game. … Xavier outrebounded Colorado 41-36.
Colorado: The Buffaloes have won three of their last four over ranked teams. … Johnson’s 3-pointer with 9:19 remaining was the 100th of his career. … George King finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Xavier fell out of the Top 10 this week after a loss to No. 4 Baylor and figures to take another dip.
Mack juggled around his starting lineup, going with RaShid Gaston, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“I just tried to deliver,” Gaston said.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
The Buffaloes are 93-16 at Coors Events Center under Boyle. They lost last week at home to Colorado State.
“We wanted to get this one back from the Colorado State loss. So, yeah, this made it up,” Wesley Gordon said.
The basketball team held a moment of silence for 1994 Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, who was found dead Monday night in a park in Boulder. The park is less than 2 miles from Folsom Field, where the tailback etched his name into the school’s record book from 1992-94. Police said foul play wasn’t suspected.
Xavier: Hosts Utah on Saturday.
Colorado: Travels to BYU on Saturday.
More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org