In a record-setting night, Colorado basketball avoided the Front Range sweep by taking down the University of Northern Colorado Bears 93 -68 after a strong second half performance.
“It’s a good win for the Buffs,” head coach Tad Boyle said. “Sure is nice when you can make some shots and get your offensive rolling like it did in the second half. It makes everything else look pretty good, pretty easy.”
After two consecutive losses to Georgia, Colorado State and a monster loss to Wyoming a few weeks ago, Colorado needed a big win with a solid defensive and offensive performance. That’s exactly what the Buffs got.
For the first time this season, Colorado had five scorers in double-digits midway through the second half. With that kind of offensive power, the Bears would need to do almost everything right to win.
Not only did the Buffaloes distribute their scoring well, but they also distributed the ball and their range of shots. The team passed its season-high assists mark with 21. Previously, lack of assists was one aspect of CU’s game that has plagued it this season. On top of that, the Buffs made 12 3-point shots, an all-time high in the Tad Boyle era.
“It works best when none of us have an agenda and just play well together,” sophomore forward Wesley Gordon said. “That’s when we’re at our best, and tonight was a small glimpse of it.”
For the night, Colorado shot a season-high 63.3 percent from the field and went 12-18 from long-range (66.7 percent). On the other side of the ball, the Buffs held the Bears to 24-61 shooting (39.3 percent). Despite this, UNC was impressive and shot 10-18 from 3-point range (55.6 percent). Colorado won the rebounding margin 35-24.
And, for the first time this season five Buffs kept the offensive going with strong shooting. Junior forward Josh Scott led the way with a bounce-back performance of 21 points, followed by Askia Booker (20), Xavier Johnson (16), Wesley Gordon (13) and Jaron Hopkins (10). Scott only managed two points in the loss to Colorado State on Wednesday, with both points coming off of free throws.
“It was really good, much needed,” Scott said. “Like I said, it was a sucky night for me personally and just in general it was not a very fun night. Not a lot of sleep had that night. So it was good to come out and get a ‘W,’ especially in the fashion that we did.”
Coming into their away game, the Bears ranked 36th in the nation in points per game with 78 and ranked even higher in field goal percentage at 51 percent (12th).
In the first half alone, the Buffs allowed the Bears to take 10 three-point shots where the Bears scored 24 points off of those looks. Clearly, perimeter defense is still a challenge for the Buffs nine games into the season. UNC also managed to sink 14 of their 30 shots from the field in the first half (46.7 percent).
That’s not to say Colorado didn’t produce on the offensive side. As a matter of fact, the Buffs shot much better than the Bears from the field, as they went 31-49 (63.3 percent).
By the time the buzzer sounded for the half, the Buffs narrowly led the Bears, 44-42. By the end of the half, only one Buffalo had scored in double digits as Wesley Gordon led the team with 11 points. That trend caught on quickly in the second half.
When the Buffs returned to the court after the break, the team picked up its game and everyone contributed on offense early on. Halfway through the second half, five Buffs had passed the double-digit scoring mark.
This offensive rebirth worked out for the Buffaloes. They racked up two separate 10-point leads before halfway through the second half and another two minutes later. Surprisingly that wasn’t the Buffs’ biggest lead by the end of the night. Not even close.
Before the end of the night, Colorado increased its lead to 27 points with 1:13 left to play. When the final buzzer sounded, the Buffs defeated the Bears in their highest-scoring game of the season, 93-68.
CU gets back to the basketball court when it heads to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic tournament. The Buffaloes start by taking on DePaul at 2:30 p.m. MST Monday, Dec. 22.
Boyle said he hopes this game will give his team the push it needs to go in and compete during the eight-team tournament.
“I hope [we have the confidence],” Boyle said. “We’re going to need it, going against DePaul. It’s going to be a heck of a game…But yeah, I think this is a nice performance on the offensive end to gain some confidence. And understand, again, we can learn from the good just like we can learn from the bad.”
Aloha Buffs fans, and good luck with finals.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org.