On Sunday, the University of Colorado Men’s Basketball team defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 72-61 in an exhibition game at the CU Events Center. The game was a fundraiser for relief of the Marshall Fire, with over 3,200 tickets purchased and all funds going to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.
Though just an exhibition, the game was the first opportunity for this year’s squad to see how they match up against the national competition. CU was listed sixth in the Pac-12 preseason rankings, behind familiar foes first-ranked UCLA and USC, ranked fourth.
The Buffs got out to an early 10-0 lead, with junior forward Tristan da Silva accounting for half of the points. CU showed good chemistry throughout the first half, going on 10-1 and 12-2 runs. They were able to get out to a 17-point lead and thanks to the defending of graduate transfer Jalen Gabbidon, were able to stop a late first-half comeback from the Huskers.
As CU led 37-30 at the end of 20 minutes, 10 different Buffaloes had scored. Speaking on this team’s depth after the game, head coach Tad Boyle had plenty to say.
“One thing I’ll say about this team is there’s not a big gap between the first unit and the second unit because of our depth,” said Boyle. “So I think getting that second unit playing together a little bit more in practice and really sharpening each other.”
In the second half, the Buffs came out strong again. Led by sophomore guard K.J. Simpson and junior transfer J’Vonne Hadley, CU was able to take control and pace of the game, keeping a comfortable lead for the rest of the contest. Along with significant rebounding contributions from juniors Luke O’Brien and Nique Clifford, the undersized Colorado team was able to out-rebound Nebraska 44-35.
Boyle was pleased with how his team rebounded, reiterating how important of an aspect rebounding can be during a game.
“There’s gonna be times this year where we’re going to have to win a game or two with our offensive rebounding, so we want that to be a constant,” said Boyle.
By the final whistle, K.J. Simpson led the Buffs in points with 17, while J’Vonne Hadley, Luke O’Brien, and Nique Clifford all finished the game, grabbing eight rebounds each. All of Tristan da Silva’s points came in the first half, but the junior looked confident as he led the team in total minutes with 28.
Freshman guard Javon Ruffin also made 3-4 of his three-pointers in his first game for the Buffs, one of the only players who saw success shooting on Sunday afternoon. Colorado scored 43% in the game but only 37% in the first half. Coach Boyle touched on the buffs shooting after the game.
“We got to be able to make open shots and we did that early, but then we hit a wall where I thought we missed some wide-open threes,” said Boyle. “That’s just a matter of getting in the gym and getting reps, and game speed reps when you’re tired and your lungs are burning.”
After losing to Nebraska last year, K.J. Simpson said after the game that he didn’t want that same feeling again.
“We just told the new guys that Nebraska is a great team, but this game was going to be kind of personal,” said Simpson. “I know it’s an exhibition and it’s not going to count but every game counts to us, especially this one.”
When asked how he thought his team competed in the win, Simpson responded confidently.
“I felt like our spacing was pretty good, and just cutting, getting back on defense, that’s stuff we’ve worked on,” he said. “It’s just good to see that it’s carrying over from practice, and now when we’re facing these opponents, it’s showing up out there on the floor. But like J’Vonne said, we’re still 0-0. So we’ve just got to get better. Watch the film and get better.”
The Colorado men’s basketball team looks to put this preparation to the test in the season opener against UC Riverside. The game will be at the CU Events Center at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Eli Gregorski at Eli.Gregorski@colorado.edu.
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