In their inaugural game of the 2014-15 season, the Buffs extinguished the first-half fire the Drexel Dragons started with a second-half slaying to steal a 65-48 victory. With the win, head coach Tad Boyle and his staff improved to 5-0 in home openers in the five years that they have been with Colorado.
Friday night marked the fewest amount of points allowed in a season opener since the 1949-50 season when the Buffs took down Emporia State, 55-45.
“It’s always nice to knock the first one out,” junior guard Xavier Talton said after the game. “I thought they were a good team, obviously we pulled away there toward the end, but we hit our defensive numbers and that’s a once a game.”
Junior forward Josh Scott opened up the season with impressive stats, grabbing his 16th career double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson followed suit with nine and eight points, respectively.
After tweaking his offensive and defensive strategy in the offseason, Coach Boyle implemented a new game plan that emphasized ball sharing and attacking the rim. He also tried out more ball pressure, which had its ups and downs throughout the night.
After the game, Boyle said, “We didn’t hit our offensive goals, but we hit our defensive ones. No question, our recipe works. If we have that kind of intensity defensively and the pace of the game is like that, it’s good for the Buffs.”
For the night, the Buffs shot 42.3 percent from the field (22-52), 30.8 percent from the perimeter (4-13) and 70.8 percent from the free throw line (17-24). On the other side of the ball, the Buffs held Drexel to 29.1 percent from the field (16-55), 24.1 percent from the perimeter (7-29) and 64.3 percent from the foul line (9-14).
The Buffs started out strong on defense and offense. In the first eight minutes of the 2014-15 season, the Buffs got the big lead early by taking advantage of the Dragons’ shooting inefficiency, going up 12-3. But the Dragons honed in on a weakness that plagued the Buffs last year and that seemed to have spilled over into this season: perimeter defense.
In a preseason press conference last week, coach Boyle preached he didn’t want his opponents to get the easy layups. He got what he wished for. Due to the lack of perimeter pressure, Drexel shot 6-18 (33.3 percent) from the three-point range in the first half alone. They weren’t as efficient with their shots from the field, only going 9-29 (31.0 percent) inside the arc. The Buffs shot a little better, going 10-26 (38.5 percent) from the field and 3-7 (42.9 percent) from the three.
After the fact, Scott touched upon the physicality the Dragons brought to the Coors Events Center in the first half.
“[The win] was important because this team is a good team. Generally people play knock-off teams [in the opener] but this team was tough, they were physical, and they were in the game with us for a half. It was a good game for us.”
While the Dragons were draining threes in the first half, the Buffs took a little trip to Dunk City, and Josh Scott was the mayor. He threw three down early, with his city council of Talton and freshman forward Tory Miller adding one of their own. Miller showcased his strength and talent when he nearly ripped the rim off the backboard with his first collegiate score.
Despite this flashy style of play, the lack of perimeter defense eventually caught up with the Buffs by the end of the first half. The Dragons managed to creep up on the Buffs, only trailing 33-29 by the end of the half.
At the start of the second half, the Buffs showed the fans they weren’t ready to turnover just yet. From the start, the Buffs picked up the pace on offense and tightened their defense to extinguish the fire the Dragons were starting to ignite at the end of the first.
The Buffs increased their lead bit by bit, until Miller finally sealed the deal with another massive dunk. The Buffs walked away with a 65-48 victory.
The Buffs return to the Coors Events Center on Monday, Nov. 17, to take on the Auburn Tigers in ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. Tip-off is at 11:00 p.m.
Contact CU Independent staff writer Alissa Noe at Alissa.Noe@colorado.edu.