The 2022-23 season has finally come to a close for the Colorado men’s basketball team, after their loss to Utah Valley in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament on Sunday, March 19. The hot shot Utah Valley team overpowered the Buffaloes, 81-69. Colorado has finished the season with an 18-17 record, while Utah Valley will advance to the quarterfinals of the NIT, where they will face Cincinnati on Wednesday, March 22.
The Buffs arguably played their best half of basketball to start the game; however, the Wolverines seemed to match their level of skill every step of the way. Both teams had a fast start, setting the tone for the rest of the half. Center Lawson Lovering had a career night and finished the game with a career-high 21 points. Lovering showed out in the first half, taking high-quality shots and anchoring the Buffs in the paint. Yet, Utah Valley managed to counter nearly all of the plays Colorado threw at it.
Utah Valley’s Trey Woodberry could not be stopped all game, finishing with a game-leading 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
“To me, that’s an NCAA tournament caliber team that we just played,” Boyle said. “If you want to be simplistic about this game tonight, the reality is that they had Trey Woodberry and we didn’t.”
Despite Utah Valley’s strong lineup, both teams had a strong chance of coming out ahead for the first half. With few fouls on both sides, the Buffs and the Wolverines played at an extremely high level. Colorado saw notable contributions from Luke O’Brien, Tristan Da Silva and Ethan Wright, who played his final college basketball game tonight.
Going into halftime, the score was tied at 38-38, setting up a tight game for the remainder of the night. The Buffs opened the second half, but they quickly saw the momentum lean toward the Wolverines. With a quick eight-point run from Utah Valley, the team grabbed the lead early — a lead that they would hold on to for the rest of the game.
Despite being one of the better defensive teams in college basketball this season, Colorado could not string together stops. Though the Buffs tried to inch closer and closer to tying the game, Utah Valley’s offense prevented them from doing so.
“They have really good players,” Wright said. “Coming in here, they had 26 wins and a lot of shooters. Woodberry was killing us today by making shots. [Utah Valley] has a really dynamic offense, and I think we could have done a lot better on offense.”
Utah Valley dominated the second half and closed out the game, 81-69, bringing the 2022-23 season to an end for the Buffaloes.
This game also saw the conclusion of three players’ college basketball careers: Wright, Jalen Gabbidon and Cody Mains.
“It has definitely emotional,” Wright said. “I have only been here for a year, but these guys mean so much to me, [as well as] this program and this school. I had a great experience here. I don’t know what the future is going to be yet, but I am grateful to play for another year, to come out here and to be accepted by these guys.”
The end of the season also means the pull of the NBA draft. For top-notch players like Da Silva and KJ Simpson, it’s time to start weighing their options.
“I feel like I should definitely test the waters, to see how it goes and get some feedback,” Da Silva said. “That [will be] a process for the summer, and I haven’t made a final decision yet.”
Though the season had high and low moments, overall, it was defined by missed opportunities. The Buffs had wins over Tennessee, Texas A&M and Colorado State, which provided great moments for this young group. Yet, they also saw tough losses to California and Oregon State, showing the inconsistency that plagued the team all year.
However, the results of this season are nothing to be ashamed of, considering the lack of veterans on the team. With many current members coming back and new talent coming in, next season will likely be an exciting time for Colorado basketball. As the offseason begins, it will be intriguing to see what the future holds for Boyle and his team.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Jason Marks at email@example.com.