Contact CU Independent Men’s Basketball Beat Writer Alissa Noe at Alissa.Noe@colorado.edu.
After a lackluster first half against Nicholls State at the Coors Events Center, the Colorado men’s basketball team stormed back in the second half to secure its ninth straight win of the season, 85-68.
“Obviously I’m not too pleased with the way we came out tonight,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. “I thought our first half performance was pathetic in a lot of different ways. We had some guys that weren’t here mentally tonight.”
It was also the ninth straight game that the Buffaloes scored over 80 points, and now they’ve improved to 9-1.
The Buffs went down by as many as 10 points late in the first half, but they immediately came out and turned the tide in the second.
“We focused more on just defense,” junior forward Wes Gordon said of the Buffs’ second half turnaround. “We had to play better defense or it just looked bad on us as a program not to play defense the way we should have.”
‘I think we’re a very deep team and if someone doesn’t bring it, then someone else can bring it and that’s a positive thing and more people than one can do it,” freshman guard Thomas Akyazili added.
The Buffaloes took a trip to dunk city, and Josh Scott was the mayor. As a whole, the team slammed the ball down the net seven times, and Scott alone contributed three.
Gordon hit a career milestone for the night, tying his career high for blocks with seven. The team finished with a total of 10.
“Wesley Gordon was the player of the game — had five points, took three shots, was absolutely the difference in the game,” Boyle said. “I could not take him off the floor in the second half. He changed the game defensively for us — he was guarding everybody, he blocked seven shots. I thought Wesley was terrific.”
The Buffs boasted three different players in double-digit scoring, with senior forward Josh Scott leading the way with 20 points, followed by junior guard Josh Fortune (17) and sophomore guard George King (14).
The Buffs shot a clean 50 percent from the field (30-60), but struggled from 3-point range, shooting 9-27 (33.3 percent). They did, however, finish with a phenomenal 19 assists and 10 blocks.
On the Nicholls State side of things, T.J. Carpenter and Ja’Dante Frye proved to be the Buffaloes’ biggest nightmares, as they scored 18 and 16 points, respectively.
The Colonels, though they shot phenomenally in the first half, struggled to get things rolling in the second. By the end of it all, they shot 41.8 percent from the field (23-55) and 42.1 percent from beyond the arc (8-19).
After the Buffs allowed Nicholls State to take the lead with the first bucket of the game, Colorado responded with an 8-0 run that was spurred by two threes from King. But once the Buffs were up 12-5 several minutes later, the Colonels responded in kind. They went on a 13-0 run, leading 18-12 before the Buffs responded.
But things just kept getting worse for the Buffaloes after that. The force was certainly not with them in the first half of their Star Wars night matchup.
It took a Nicholls State nine-point lead midway through the first for the Buffs to start to fight back, but the Colonels didn’t stop there. With exactly two minutes left on the clock, the Colonels extended their lead to 10, 38-28.
By halftime, the Buffs diminished that deficit to just five points, 38-33, though it left for what was probably a very unhappy Boyle in the locker room.
“We’re not going to make shots all the time, that’s just a part of basketball,” Gordon said. “So we really can’t rely on our offense because sometimes the ball’s going to go in and sometimes it’s not. We got to fall back our defense, and I think just by the way we’ve been shooting it lately, we just fall on our offense.”
Coming out into the second half, it was clear the Buffs had had enough. They weren’t about to let Nicholls State get a win, not in their house.
In just three minutes and 20 seconds, the Buffs completely erased the deficit and tied the game up at 43. From there, the home team asserted its dominance, proving it wasn’t about to go down without a fight.
The game came full-circle when the Buffs increased the lead to 10 with seven minutes left in the game, just as the Colonels had done to them at the end of the first half.
But they didn’t stop there.
Nicholls State never stopped playing hard to get the deficit down. But try as they might, no brigadier of colonels could take down the Buffaloes in the second half.
Colorado extended its lead to as much as 19 with 35 seconds left, 85-66, before putting the final nail in the coffin, 85-68. The win marked their ninth-straight as they head into round two of the Las Vegas Classic, where they’ll return home on Saturday night, Dec. 19, to take on Hampton at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Mountain.