Before I jumped into the adventures of Messrs Spader and Russell, I did get a chance to watch the Buffs do exactly what I feared they'd do when faced with a squad like Arizona. While the Buffs were able to scrap a bit to keep it close, even into the start of the 2nd half, by the end of the game their energy and composure had run out. The 71-57 final probably ends any hope of an at-large bid to the Dance.
|CU just couldn't stay with Arizona down the stretch. From: the BDC|
It certainly didn't help that the Wildcats shot 21 more free throws than the Buffs did. With the Buffs so reliant on getting to the line, that kind of freebie disparity is a recipe for disaster.
One big positive is that the Buffs once again held the 3-reliant 'Cats to sub-par shooting from beyond the arc. Kenpom may have shown ($) that 3-point defense is luck dependent, but I can't help but notice that CU has held 'Zona to 6-36 3-point shooting in two games. That's a full 20 points below their season average.
Additionally, 'Dre did get yet another double-double, but CU was crushed on the boards by 12. The Buffs seemed to struggle all night with finding the bottom of the net, shooting a paltry 37% from the floor.
Eventually, this program needs to grow to the point that it can win games like last night. Until then, the Buffs are just an average team with a very strong homecourt advantage.
That disappointing result is in the past now, and focus must be turned onto the struggling ASU Sun Devils. It is beyond vital that CU bounce back from the Tucson disappointment, and reclaim some momentum before next week's trip to Utah. Tomorrow's contest in Tempe appears very winnable on paper, and is essential to the Buffs chances of getting a first round bye in the conference tournament, and grabbing a 20th win.
Tip-off from Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe is set for 4:30 tomorrow. The game can be seen on ROOT Sports, and heard on 850 AM.
My preview of the first game can be found here.
Click below for my preview of the rematch...
When last we met -
The Sun Devils came to Boulder, riding high in the wake of a shocking win over Oregon St, back on January 19th. Key Sun Devil guard Trent Lockett, however, did not make the trip, suffering from an ankle sprained in the aforementioned win. Without Lockett, ASU never really had a chance.
|CU easily shot past the Sun Devils in Boulder. From: the BDC|
Also, 'Dre did this:
On the flip side, the paced Sun Devil offense struggled to find rhythm, and only managed to get to the foul line nine times. With the Buffs shooting 25, the disparity was plain as day. As you can imagine, ASU head coach Herb Sendek wasn't pleased, and double-tech'd himself out into the night with a few minutes to play.
ASU did manage to shoot over 40%, which is high for a Buffs opponent at altitude. However, a lot of their best shots came late, as Coach Boyle emptied the bench to kill the clock.
What's changed -
ASU only continued to struggle with Lockett missing from the lineup. After the blowout in Boulder, they dropped four of the next five, including a 21-point loss to Utah. Losing by 21 to Utah is the Pac-12 equivalent of getting your ass kicked by a cancer patient. They did manage to beat fellow train-wreck Washington St at home, but ASU has been mostly garbage since leaving the Front Range.
|How the hell do you let Utah beat you by 21?|
Still, this team is not very good, and mostly hopes that their lethargic pace will lull opponents to sleep. Sitting at 7-16 (4-8), that hasn't worked too often this season.
I'm actually worried about this game. Yes, ASU is quite bad, and legitimately in the bottom quarter of a bad conference. However, it's a road game, and Lockett changes the equation just a bit.
What's more, I'm sure last night will produce an emotional letdown, and the Buffs haven't exactly been playing well on Saturday's so far. In fact, in back ends of 2-games-in-3 days sets, CU is 3-4, while 6-1 in front ends (prior to last night). Shooting drops about 4-5%, and efficiency follows. Scout and prep time is short, and ASU couldn't play a more different style from Arizona.
Add it all up, and, in the words of Admiral Ackbar:
I have to think, however, that at some point in the second half the ship will right itself. The Buffs are flat out the better team, and Tempe isn't the kind of place that will scare you too much. CU finds some scoring late, and avoids a massive letdown.
CU 59 - ASU 53
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG AND CRUSH THE SUN DEVILS!