After getting dismantled by the University of Wyoming on Saturday, the University of Colorado returned to the Coors Events Center on Tuesday night to snag their third straight home victory of the season, a 68-53 win against the Air Force Falcons. The 15-point margin is the smallest the Buffs have had all year.
“Some really good things tonight, I thought, from our team, lot of things we can build on, and also there’s obviously room for improvement,” head coach Tad Boyle said. “I was very pleased with our play in the first half, except for the first four minutes. From that point on, in the first half, I thought we played really well and moved the ball.”
While the Buffs managed a victory, they committed fifteen turnovers throughout the night. Not one of them was committed by freshman guard Dominique Collier, who got his first taste of balling in Boulder against the Falcons. The freshman contributed nearly half of Colorado’s 13 assists with six of his own.
“I just tried to be calm and run the team as much as I can, and that’s what I did,” Collier noted after the game. “I tried to make a simple play and not make a homerun play, and I had six assists.”
After the game, Boyle said that Collier’s presence on the court on Tuesday night is something he hopes to see more of as the season progresses.
“He makes the game simple, he makes simple plays,” Boyle said. “He’s got that feel that you can’t coach. It’s nice to have a guy out there like that—who makes six assists, no turnovers, takes two shots and he’s fine with it.”
Despite some messy ball handling, two Buffaloes managed to score in double digits. Xavier Johnson led the team in points and rebounds, scoring 15 and grabbing nine. Josh Scott, despite a slow first half, willed himself to score 13 points while only grabbing three rebounds. Xavier Talton wasn’t far behind with nine points, all of which he acquired behind the arc.
The Buffs played inside-out as they went 21-48 from the field (43.8 percent) and 7-16 from behind the arc (43.8 percent), something that head coach Tad Boyle has preached all season. On the other side of the court, the Falcons only managed to go 18-55 from the field (32.7 percent) and 4-20 from the three (20.0 percent).
“We hit our defensive numbers, didn’t hit our offensive numbers,” Boyle said. “That’s still a work in progress for the Buffs.”
After an embarrassing 56-33 loss to Wyoming on Saturday, the Buffs came out on Tuesday night a little shaken up. In the first three-and-a-half minutes alone, the Buffs committed seven turnovers and couldn’t score after going down 5-0. They only committed two more throughout the rest of the half.
After that little rough patch, the Buffs started to find their rhythm. They were on their home court, after all, and they weren’t wanting to lose at home. After going down 10-6 early on, the Buffs set a school record by scoring 25 unanswered points before the Falcons’ next bucket ten minutes later.
More interestingly, senior guard Askia Booker never took the court in the first half. Sophomore forward Wesley Gordon also sat out of the starting lineup. Boyle explained his reasoning behind this decision after the game.
“Both Ski and Wes, there’s just some off-court stuff,” Boyle explained. “Ski’s was an academic issue, and Wes just got an issue with tardiness. Just some off-court disciplinary things.”
By the end of the first half the Buffs were well on their way to another home rout, their third of the season, at 37-15. They scored more points in the first half alone than they did in their matchup against Wyoming three days ago (33), and the Falcons’ score was the lowest allowed by the Buffs in any first half of play under Boyle.
By the end of the half, the Buffs were shooting 13-25 from the field (52.0 percent) and they shot uncharacteristically well from the three-point range, going 6-10 (60 percent). On the other side of the ball, the Buffs held Air Force to 6-26 from the field (23.1 percent) and 3-15 from the arc (20 percent). But that was not necessarily from good defense.
During the second half, the Falcons picked up the pace. After the Buffs gained their biggest lead of the game at 52-23, the Falcons went on a 20-6 scoring streak to get to within 15 points of Colorado. The score was 58-43 with just under five minutes left.
“We had a little bit of a lapse on defense,” Talton admitted after the game. “I feel like we got a little lazy…We can’t have that happen against better teams.”
But that was the closest Air Force would get to the Buffaloes. By the end of the night, the Buffs ran away with a 68-53 victory in an easy win over their Front Range foes.
The Buffs return to the court on Sunday, Nov. 30th at the Coors Events Center. They’ll take on the Lipscomb Bisons at 12:00 p.m.
Contact CU Independent staff writer Alissa Noe at Alissa.Noe@colorado.edu.