Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Askia's Miracle

I have to give BuffNation credit, they did their job in keeping the CEC Black and Gold on Saturday.  There were some patches of KU fans, even a small block in one corner, but nothing even close to years past when the split between Buffs and Jayhawks was 50-50 (or worse).  If you pressed me for a number, I'd put it slightly over 1,000, or about 10% of the stadium, which is just fantastic when you consider the university is contractually obligated to give them 250 seats to start with.  It was a Colorado crowd on Saturday. Allen Fieldhouse West is now dead and forgotten.
My view. Note the lack of blue dots.


Today in the bag, I'm talking Askia's Miracle, some women's hoops, and wrapping up the women's volleyball campaign.

Click below for the bag...

Bedlam in Boulder - 

It was a show worthy of the setting.  From: the BDC
It rare in life that an event actually lives up to the hype. Usually, human expectation far outpaces reality. That was decidedly not the case Saturday, however, as #6 Kansas came to town to battle our heroes in one of the most anticipated games in the history of Colorado basketball. In fact, the game surpassed even my wildest expectations, and will go down as one of the biggest sporting moments ever in Boulder.

The game had everything; emotional swings, surprising twists, and a climactic finish; a story a dramatist would be proud of. Perfection is not necessarily what your're looking for, so we can forgive things like KU's 14 turnovers and CU's 60% shooting from the charity stripe. It was well played throughout, and featured two teams playing at close to their best. If you spent more than face value to get into the CEC this weekend, you got well more than your money's worth.

It took a while for Colorado to settle into the game. Kansas was efficient from the tip, and utilized athletic big man Joel Embiid to impose their will inside the paint.  The 7-foot freshman had a fantastic first half, scoring 10 points in the first 13 minutes of play.  Throughout the game, KU would score 46 points in the paint, playing to expectation, and the early play of Embiid helped the Jayhawks jump out to first half leads of 9-3, 18-9, and 25-19.
Embiid was too much for Colorado in the early-going.  They needed to resort to desperate measures to counter him. From: the BDC
Then, the earth opened up, and insanity reigned. Coach Boyle sent Ben Mills into the game, and switched the Buffs into a zone defense.  Mills, a senior, had been more mascot than on-court contributor into his final season in Boulder, while Boyle had stated on media day that the word 'zone' is a four-letter word in the CU huddle.  To see both Mills and a 2-3 zone on the court for the Buffs was akin to watching a pig sprout wings and fly before our eyes.

The thing is, it worked like a charm.  The combination of the pride-swallowing zone defense and the lanky presence of CU's seldom used 7-footer negated Embiid, and returned the game to an even playing field. Kansas was forced to become a jump-shooting team and struggled with the change for the next 20 minutes of play.  They settled for lazy passes around the perimeter, and ugly outside shots.  After the switch, KU went a shockingly bad 2-16 from beyond the arc, Embiid never scored again, and Colorado came from behind to take a 33-30 lead into halftime. Not too bad for CU's version of a flying pig.
Ben Mills, yes BEN FREAK'N' MILLS, changed the dynamic of the game.  From: the BDC
Into the second half, Colorado would begin to build some leads, including a 53-44 spread with 11:31 to play. Kansas, however, would not go silently into the night, and chipped away at the advantage down the stretch. Aided by some shaky free throw shooting (Colorado would miss 15 on the day, more than KU made), the Buffs saw their lead evaporate.  When Perry Ellis converted a layup with 4 seconds to go, Kansas had come back to tie the score at 72-72.

Enter: Askia Booker.  The oft-maligned shooting guard collected the corner-baseline inbound from Xavier Johnson, took two dribbles, Euro-stepped his way into space, and heaved up a running-28-footer as the clock ticked towards zero.
You'll be seeing this for years.  From: SBNation
The shot was pure, I saw it right away.  I even had enough time to scream 'it's good!' before it got to the rim (I kept repeating that for a good minute).  Down it went, and with it the Jayhawks.  The entirety of the student section streamed onto the court, and Colorado rejoiced over a 75-72 win that stands as one of the best regular season triumphs in program history.

Four picutres easily worth 4,000 words.  From 14er @ AllBuffs.
I wanted this game to be basketball's version of the football win over Nebraska in 1986, and maybe it will end up becoming just that, but, for now, all I can think of is the Kordell-to-Westbrook Hail Mary that stunned Michigan in 1994. This play will front highlight packages for years to come, and could become the indelible image of the program for the foreseeable future. Regardless, the building phase of this program now has its capstone.

It's an incredible moment.  I'm so happy for Ski, who silenced his critics, Boyle, who finally topped his alma mater and notched a signature win, the fans, who needed to see some demons exorcised, and the program at large, that can now move forward having put the ghosts of seasons past to bed.

All that said, the focus must now be on moving forward.  Far too often you see teams lose focus in the wake of big victories, and drop the next game.  Elon hits Boulder on Friday, and a loss to them erases much of the national good will engendered by the win over Kansas.  The Buffs need to maintain focus to ensure that they head to Las Vegas with a 10-1 record.

Women's basketball on a roll - 

It's becoming easy to take them for granted, but the women's basketball team is on a roll.  It's been three years since their last non-conference loss, and, sitting at #11 in the current AP poll, they're one of the biggest names on the national radar.

The team is so good at this basketball thing that even legitimate distractions can't shake their winning groove. On Saturday, they had to wait as the aftermath of one of the most dramatic finishes in men's basketball history was cleared from the court, and then had to sit through a 20-minute delay caused by a burst water pipe.  Undeterred, they made quick work of the visiting University of Illinois, claiming a 79-56 win, their 8th of the season.
Reese and the Buffs had to stay focused to beat the Illini.  From:
The game was still close at halftime (45-37), but CU was able to pull away over the final 20 minutes due to some tremendous defense (Illinois was held to 6-30 shooting in the final frame).  Colorado was lead by a 17/10 double-double from Arielle Roberson, and 16 big points off the bench from Jen Reese.  Combined, the team shot a solid 48% from the floor, and out-rebounded the U of I by 21.

With distractions and the Illini in their rear-view, the team hosts the Denver Pioneers this week before embarking on their toughest road trip of the non-conference campaign when they head to Louisville to play the #7 Cardinals.  If they can nab a win on that trip, you'll know this team is for real, and can compete for a Pac-12 crown.

Volleyball ends their run in the round of 32 - 

The volleyball team saw their season end in Minnesota this weekend, but not before notching another upset to cap a wonderful campaign.

Friday afternoon they faced off against old Big XII rival Iowa State in what was a semi-neutral game in Minneapolis.  The Cyclones took the first set, but Colorado stunned ISU with a near-perfect second set (25-16, 76% attacking) to swing momentum.  From there, the Buffs held off furious charges down the stretch of sets three and four to claim victory, and move onto the second round.  Helped by the absence of the Cyclone's normal starting outside hitter, the Buffs held ISU to an attack percentage under 15%.
CU overcame a hot start from the Cyclones to survive and advance.  From:
Because of the win, they were granted the opportunity to play #10 Minnesota on the Gophers home court Saturday afternoon. Much like the opening round game with ISU, CU struggled in the early sets, dropping the first two 25-20, and 25-18.  Undeterred, the Buffs roared back again, taking sets three and four to force a deciding fifth set.  The upset bid was not to be, however, as Minnesota notched 80% attacking in the frame to escape with a 15-9 set win, and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

It's disappointing to see the team come up short against the Gophers, but I can't help but applaud their efforts this season.  Volleyball had been an afterthought over the past few years, as mounting losses had shown them to be far behind conference competition in the dominating Pac-12.  This year could stand as a turning point for the program, as they gained respectability by notching nine conference wins (nearly double their combined total from '11 and '12), including major upsets of #11 UCLA, #25 Arizona, and #1 Washington. With key players like Taylor Simpson, Kelsey English, and Nicole Edelman returning next fall, hopefully they can continue to grow into a sustainable program.

Happy Monday!


Aaron Jordan said...

I am still super bummed I missed the Kansas game. One of the only times I have hated my work schedule.

We were watching it at work and I went ballistic on the Ski-3.

What do you think about CU not being ranked in the Coaches Poll?

Anonymous said...

You're a shitty writer with bad grammar. Ben Mills is a G and way better than you give him credit for. If you intend to create a half-way decent blog, buy an AP Style book before posting shit like this.