Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Baylor wrap and UT-Martin teaser

Well, that didn't exactly go according to plan, did it?

The Buffs, fighting through season-opening jitters, had a hard time getting shots to fall yesterday night against Baylor.  For the game they shot 33% from the floor, 21% in the first half, and only made 2 of 19 three-pointers attempted.  Wasting a strong defensive and rebounding effort (including 18 offensive rebounds), the shoddy masonry laid the foundation of a 72-60 loss in Dallas.
*sigh* ... Not a good start.
Early on, it was simply ugly to watch.  The ball was moving well enough, but everyone looked jelly-legged when going up for a shot.  Moving from the intimate setting of collegiate arenas to an NBA cathedral probably didn't help, but I'm going to chalk the misses up to over-excitement.  Finally in the second half, some shots did fall, but Colorado could never seem to get the stop they needed to gain some traction against the Bears. When old nemesis Scott the Dick started hitting from deep in the waning minutes of the contest, the losing fate was sealed.

Josh Scott, as promised, was the best player on the court, opening the season with a 15/11 double-double that included five offensive rebounds and a 7-8 shooting performance from the line.  Baylor, however, did a good job denying him paint touches, and CU wasn't able to take enough advantage of his strong game.  The heralded veteran guard duo of Spencer Dinwidde and Askia Booker slogged through a combined 7-28 shooting night, which seems more flukey than anything else.  The pair didn't get do a good enough job of attacking the rim, and far too often settled for jumpers, particularly in the early going.
Spencer struggled for much of the night in Dallas.
Both teams had to play through some early foul trouble.  Seven total players finished with at least three fouls, and many were quick to blame the 28 new rule tweaks.  Nothing I saw was overtly atrocious, however.  It just looked like a tightly called contest to me, and both sides suffered. The calls weren't the reason CU wasn't hitting shots.

All five freshmen saw the court for Colorado, with many playing extended minutes (freshmen accounted for 35% of available minutes last night).  Wesley Gordon, a redshirt frosh who will be a starter most nights, put in the best performance, going for 9/8.  For stretches, the Colorado Springs product dominated the Bears down low, and he was a large part of the reason CU had any hope at all of crawling back into the game.  True freshmen Dustin Thomas and Tre'Shaun Fletcher also played well in their first collegiate minutes, but you could tell they were nervous early.
Freshmen like Dustin Thomas saw plenty of run against Baylor.
The loss stings - how could it not - but it's only one night, and, as I said in my preview, the team will improve as the season goes on.  Coach Boyle is still feeling out the rotation, and there's no reason that yesterday night spells doom for a campaign still filled with promise.  Brighter days are ahead...

Which brings me to Sunday afternoon, and the home opener against the UT-Martin Skyhawks.  It's a quick turnaround, but the games are going to be coming fast and furious for the rest of November.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

I don't know much about the Skyhawks.  They were one of the nation's worst in 2012-13 (Kenpom had them as #332), but they went 5-5 over their final 10, and return almost everyone of importance.  Their best player, junior forward Myles Taylor, is still recovering from an ACL tear suffered in March, leaving key returners like Justin Childs, Tobias Dowdell, Dee Oldham, and Terrence Smith to translate that late-season improvement into a run in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Tobias Dowdell is one of several key returners for UTM. From:
Still, given their 9-21 record of a year ago, UTM was in need of some fresh blood.  Head coach Jason James obliged by signing early contributors like freshman Javier Martinez and JuCo transfer Marshun Newell.  Look for them to play big minutes tomorrow.

Last night, they opened their season with a 78-60 loss up in Laramie against the Wyoming Cowboys.  Hot shooting in the first half (46%, 5-10 from deep) turned cold in the second (24%, 2-11), as the effects of altitude dug in.  In the game, Boulder's own Riley Grabau posted a career high 17 points for the Pokes.  Oldham and Newell combined for 29 in defeat for UTM.

No reason to think there's much danger from the Skyhawks tomorrow, particularly with the quick turnaround at altitude.  Tip-off is scheduled for 4pm MT, with coverage on Pac-12 Networks and AM 760 (... fucking Broncos).  I expect a solid Buffs victory, anything less would be a massive disappointment.


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