Los Angeles: It’s a whole different ballgame come tournament time.
CU basketball head coach Tad Boyle and his Buffs had to rely on their basic principles to out-scrap the University of Utah on Wednesday in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament.
Colorado out-rebounded its opponent and tightened up on defense late in the second half to seal the 53-41 victory over the Utes.
The Buffs took some time to gain momentum going into the game. CU had only four points on the scoreboard midway through the first half before a steal and score by sophomore forward Andre Roberson.
“When you’re not making shots in the half-court, you have to hopefully manufacture things off your defense,” Boyle said. “I thought we did that in the first half to get us going.”
Good defense can only take a team so far though. The Buffs were forced to grind and find a way to get something going offensively.
“Some days it’s going to be ugly,” Boyle said. The second-year head coach said he hoped the Buffs got all their misses out of the way before their upcoming match up against the University of Oregon. “Some days we’re going to be hot, but today just wasn’t one of those days.”
Roberson and senior guard Carlon Brown didn’t play their best games of the year, but they weren’t going to let the Buffs be upset by a team they had previously beaten twice this season.
“I just go out there and play my game, trying to get these seniors where they need to be,” said Roberson, a first team All-Conference player.
Roberson also broke the single-season Buffs’ record for rebounds on Wednesday with 11 big boards.
Roberson and Brown scored 20 and 15 points respectively. However, it was their leadership and conscious effort to play the hard-nosed defense their coach loves and get to the glass to rebound that really made the difference. Utah kept the game close throughout the second half, but Roberson and Brown rose to the challenge and led the Buffs into the second round.
“We don’t win the game without these two guys,” Boyle said.
With Wednesday’s win, Boyle has now guided the Buffs to back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in school history. His 24 wins last season and now 20 this year continue to show progress, representing a shift in the culture of the Colorado basketball program.
Colorado will face University of Oregon in the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday. CU beat the Ducks in Boulder earlier this season by one point, a Nate Tomlinson free throw. The Buffs lost to Oregon last week in Eugene though, falling 90-81.
Tip for CU vs. Oregon is set for 8:30 PT, or 9:30 MST.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Andy McDonnell at Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org.