Strong scored 39 points, a career-best for the senior guard, but No. 19 Colorado withstood the barrage for an 85-80 double-overtime win Tuesday night.
"In many respects, (Texas Southern) deserved to win the game. Those kids played their hearts out and I can't say enough about the performance of Omar Strong," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "We were fortunate to win. I'm not saying we didn't deserve to win, because our guys played hard as well and did what we had to do down the stretch. But we definitely have to learn from tonight and get better."
Josh Scott scored the first two baskets of the second overtime to put Colorado in front to stay. He finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Spencer Dinwidde had 24 points to lead Colorado (6-0). Askia Booker added 15 points and Andre Roberson had 11.
Fred Sturdivant had 12 points and 11 rebounds for Texas Southern (1-6), which just missed pulling off the upset.
"That hurts. That's what a loss does to you," Strong said. "I don't have an appetite. I don't even want to eat."
Getting so close to a signature win was both tough and encouraging for first-year Texas Southern coach Mike Davis.
"It was very difficult," the former Indiana coach said. "I'm just trying to build the team and get better every single time. I think we took a step in the right direction. We played very well. We came out competing and working hard."
Strong was in the thick of the Tigers' offensive from the outset.
"I was kind of in a slump in the first couple of games," Strong said. "I was going through stuff at home. I need to block all that out and just think positive. That's what I did tonight."
Tied at 59 at the end of regulation, Booker converted a three-point play with 1:38 remaining in overtime for a 68-66 Colorado lead. But Strong was fouled attempting a 3-pointer and made two free throws to re-tie it.
Booker drained a 3-pointer from the corner with 41 seconds left in the first overtime to make it 71-68 but Law Johnson-Danner answered with a 3-pointer for the Tigers and Booker's long jumper rimmed out at the buzzer, forcing the second overtime.
Scott hit successive baskets from up close to start the second overtime, getting fouled in the lane and converting the free throw after the second shot to give the Buffaloes a 76-71 lead they would not relinquish.
Sabatino Chen's driving layup with 1:09 remaining gave Colorado an 80-72 lead, and the Buffaloes made five of their six free throws down the stretch, enough to withstand two more 3-pointers by Strong in the last 11.5 seconds.
Trailing by 10 points at halftime, Colorado finally shook off its early shooting woes to run off 11 straight points starting the second half, moving in front 40-39 on Roberson's fastbreak layup with 15:35 remaining.
Roberson, whose blown breakaway dunk midway through the opening period epitomized Colorado's earlier offensive struggles, had seven points during the stretch.
The Tigers came back to take a 50-48 lead when Penn connected on a 3-pointer with 9:02 left. Colorado put together an 8-0 flurry for a 56-50 lead with 6:44 remaining. Dinwidde sparked the run with two 3-pointers.
Madarious Gibbs made both ends of a 1-and-1 to pull the Tigers to 57-56 with 3:06 left and Scott made two free throws for Colorado with 1:51 left.
Roberson fouled out with 1:30 left when he fouled Aaron Clayborn as he went up for a shot. Clayborn made one of two free throws, getting the Tigers within two points.
Booker missed a jumper and Sturdivant drove in for a layup that tied it at 59-all with 42.5 seconds left.
Maneuvering for a tie-breaking shot, Colorado hung on to the ball too long, turning it over with 6.8 seconds left in regulation when the 35-second shot clock expired. Strong missed a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer.
Colorado missed its first six shots from beyond the arc before Booker connected at the buzzer, pulling the Buffaloes within 39-29 at halftime after trailing by as many as 15 points.
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