Nate Tomlinson averages 26.4 minutes this season. An earlier version gave Tomlinson an incorrect amount of playing time. We regret these errors. 1/27/10; 11:32
Picture this: a packed student section, the CU marching band playing the fight song, Colorado players running out of the tunnel to the cheers of the black and gold faithful and the team in red and white jogging out to the jeers of Buffaloes fans.
And imagine it taking place somewhere other than Folsom Field.
That’s the atmosphere the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team hopes to be greeted by when they host the Nebraska Cornhuskers at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Coors Events Center.
After more than 10,000 fans packed the arena in the team’s last home game against Kansas State, the players and coaches say they hope to see similar support against the rival Huskers (12-7, 0-4 Big 12 Conference).
If the Buffs (10-9, 1-4) hope to snap a three-game losing streak, one important factor will be the play of point guards Nate Tomlinson and Alec Burks.
After starting in all 28 games Tomlinson played in as a freshman, he has seen both his minutes (down from 33.6 per game to 26.4) and scoring (7.4 points per game to 5.6) take a hit due to the emergence of Burks. Often times in sports, stats can be deceiving.
“Numbers have never been an issue to me,” Tomlinson said. “The only number that matters is if we’re winning or not. I just want us to win, whatever that means I’ll have to do, I’ll do it.”
Another number opposing teams should keep an eye on is Tomlinson’s assist-to-turnover ratio, which is 2.1-to-one and has been in the positive column in 16 of the team’s 19 games.
“[I’ve had] not as many turnovers as I had last year, so I understand what I have to do to make us win and make us be competitive,” said Tomlinson, revealing he has perhaps had the “light going off in his head” moment as a college player.
The sophomore from Sydney, Australia has led the team in dimes in five straight games and shined in the team’s upset win over Baylor with 11 points, four assists, and maybe the most impressive stat: zero turnovers in 31 minutes.
Meanwhile, Burks, his rookie counterpart is continuing to wow teammates and the competition with his impressive play.
In his latest performance, Burks dropped 19 points at Texas A&M, but came up short on his game-tying shot late in the contest. Although he’s a freshman, Burks’ frustration with close losses is just as evident as with veterans’.
“We’re still trying to get over that hump,” Burks said. “Winning those close games, like the one we just lost, is going to be big.”
Burks plays each game like he has a chip on his shoulder, and his aggressiveness and fearless play has turned heads in Big 12 country.
“I feel like I’ve always had the talent to perform, I just wanted to prove I can play with anybody in the nation,” Burks said. “Hard work and dedication is all it is.”
Both players know Big Red should not be overlooked despite the fact they are winless in conference play. Both players said they feel their up-tempo style will be crucial to deciding the outcome.
“I love getting out and running and I feel like we have the team to do that this year,” Tomlinson said.
Burks added, “If we can make them play faster and force turnovers, we’ll win the game.”
After CU’s tough loss to Kansas State on Jan. 16, former Colorado great and current Denver Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups spoke to the team. The players didn’t reveal much, but said “Mr. Big Shot” loves how the team plays and if they keep playing hard like they have been, it will eventually pay off.
Rubbing off some of Billups’ own moves from his days as a Buff on the team’s point guard tandem wouldn’t hurt either.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer David Starcer at David.email@example.com.