Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: #26

The football team lived up to expectations Saturday night, proving completely ineffective against a very good Trojan defense.  While they would put 29 second-half points on the board, mostly through a 22-point fourth quarter that occurred long after I left the stadium, the first half was a comedy of zeros.  The result: a 47-29 loss that cemented their bowl-less fate.  At least the Buffs covered?
Sefo Liufau and the Colorado offense had a tough time moving the ball against USC.  From: the BDC.
Here's the pre-halftime drive chart: punt, punt, safety, punt, punt, interception, fumble.  Woof.  In all, CU could only put up 69 first half yards, and scored more points for USC then they did for themselves.  With the program's first bowl trip in six years on the line, it was a heartbreaking letdown to see the offense unable to live up to their side of the bargain.  Moving the ball against the Trojans was never going to be easy, and I don't know what else I reasonably could've asked for, but the bottom line is they didn't come through when needed.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the banana stand's triumphant Saturday, basketball against Harvard, and soccer's magical run to the Sweet Sixteen.

Click below for the bag...

That's one big banana - 

If you think about it, the University of Colorado isn't a football school.  It's not even a basketball school. It's a distance running and skiing school.  End of argument.  That truth was reinforced Saturday when the Banana Stand produced their biggest banana to date as the men bagged the program's sixth national tile, Colorado's 26th overall (19 skiing, 1 football).

Ranked #3 coming into the meet, the Buffs were up against some strong competition.  The team got off to a slow start at the La Vern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, IN.  CU was 10th at the 3k mark, and still stuck in third at the halfway point.  It was only over the final 2k that the Buffs were able to pull away from second place NAU for good.  With four of their scorers finishing in the top-40, Colorado finished 20 points clear of the Lumberjacks.
Congrats to the champs!  From:
The team was lead by freshman Ben Saarel.  One of the best high school runners in the country last fall, Saarel had to come from all the back in 64th place to pace the Buffs with an 8th place finish.  The feat earned him All-America honors, the first for a true freshman at Colorado since the great Billy Nelson.

Much like Saarel, the rest of the scorers for Colorado will return next year. Juniors Morgan Pearson (17th) and Blake Theroux (23rd), along with sophomores Pierce Murphy (39th), and Ammar Moussa (95th), set the squad up as the prohibitive favorites to repeat in 2014.

The women may not have won a title, but secured a 7th-place finish that was well lower than their pre-meet ranking.  The Buffs were lead by senior Shalaya Kipp, who finished in 9th place overall to secure her fourth-consecutive All-America honors.

It was a fantastic season all around from the banana stand, confirming, once again, that they are part of the heart of the athletic department.  I can't wait to see what they have in store for us next fall. #RollBananaStand

Harvard basketball wrap - 

Sunday afternoon was a tale of two halves for the Buffs and Crimson.  In the first, Harvard gathered the opening tip, and roared out to a quick 16-4 lead.  Hot shooting and a few too many Colorado turnovers carried the Crimson throughout the opening 20 minutes. Overall, they would shoot 54% from the field in the frame, 50% from three, and CU was lucky to only be down 12 at the break.
Coach Boyle was far from happy with the first half defense.  From: the BDC
At halftime, the obvious emphasis inside the Colorado locker room was defense, as a team that prides itself on shot percentage defense and making life difficult on opponents - especially at altitude - should never give up over 50% shooting to any team.  That point seemed to sink in out of the tunnel, as CU would hold Harvard to only 24% shooting in the second half, including an anemic 1-11 from beyond the three point arc.  Some of it was the Crimson missing open looks in a return to season form, but much of it was a better job from the Buffs closing down shooters.

Behind the new commitment to defense, the Buffs began to scorch Harvard down the stretch.  Led by a dynamic final 10 minutes from Josh Scott, and a series of back-to-back-to-back threes from Xavier Johnson and Spencer Dinwiddie with only five minutes to play, CU went on a 29-12 run to close out the game.  From down 12 at the half, CU had raced home to claim a statement 70-62 win.
Scott's huge second half helped the Buffs come back from certain defeat.  From: the BDC.
This was a huge win in a number of ways.  Harvard is a very good team that basketball fans will see plenty of come March.  For the Buffs to come back against them, in declarative fashion, hints that the young Buffaloes may finally be coming into their own after three weeks of inconsistent play.  The win also came in a physical game against a scrappy opponent. With the refs stowing their whistles (only 28 fouls called all game), the Buffs had to turn to some old-school physicality to claim the victory - another good sign.  It was also the first time that the Coors Events Center had been anything close to packed all season.  Other than a half-filled student section, the crowd was on par with what should be expected for a Colorado basketball game.  It was fitting that CU honored that crowd with a win.

On the eve of the season's first true road trip, it was vital for the Buffs to have a game like this.  Games at Air Force and Colorado State may not lift many skirts nationally, but they will be brutal games against opponents who live to mess with CU.  We now know Colorado has the toughness to match their talent, the next step is putting the two together for a complete 40 minutes.

Soccer ends magical run against dominant Seminoles - 

Coming off a nice win over the rival DU Pioneers in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, the women's soccer team was tasked with traveling all the way down to Tallahassee, FL for their round-of-32 match with top-20 ranked BYU.  Behind a pair of first half goals, the ladies stunned a ranked opponent for the second-straight week, claiming a 2-1 win last Thursday that sent them sprinting into the Sweet Sixteen.
The Buffs managed to carry the momentum earned against Denver all the way down to Florida.  From: the Post.
The two goals were scored in the first half by Emily Paxton and Carly Bolyard.  Paxton's was scored off of a corner kick.  A Cougar defender got a head to it off the line, but the shot from Emily was too strong, and only deflected into the net.  Bolyard's goal came off of a long shot that the BYU keeper should've been able to handle, but it slipped through her fingers, and into the net.  The pair was all the Buffs would need, as stellar defense, including six saves from goalie Annie Brunner, held off a furious second half charge from the Cougars.

Unfortunately, in the Sweet Sixteen the Buffs ran up against the homestanding and 3rd ranked Florida State Seminoles.  Defending their home turf, the Noles pounded the Buffs 4-0 Saturday afternoon.  That unpleasantness aside, the Colorado finishes a very nice season where they established that they are capable of playing in the rough-and-tumble Pac-12, and are back to their old winning ways.  Head coach Danny Sanchez has the program headed in the right direction for next fall.

Happy Monday!

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