Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: AVERT YOUR EYES!

Well, that hurts like heartbreak.  I figured that Colorado would be hard pressed to crack the Arizona defense, even at home, but I was stunned to watch the parade of made baskets from the Wildcats in the second half.  CU got punked in their own gym, no less - something that only happens once a year.  It sucks.

If there's anything defiantly hopeful to be said, it's that we've seen this before.  Only a month ago, CU went down to Arizona, got their ass kicked in the weekend game, and had a week to regroup before a game against Utah. If that sequence is any indication, the Buffs know just what to do with the extra practice time, as they reeled off five wins in six games in the aftermath.  Hopefully, they're capable of a repeat performance, because Saturday's tilt at Utah is huge.


Today in the bag, I'm talking whatever the hell that was against Arizona, the strong showing from the C-Unit, and lacrosse's home opener.

Click below for the bag...

Implosion on Senior Day - 

Saturday evening, Colorado had a prime opportunity for a national statement at the CEC.  With Gameday in town, and the house as packed and feisty as it has ever been, the supporting pieces were in place for one of the biggest days in program history.  The Buffs, however, were not ready for the stage, and blinked when faced with the dominating Arizona Wildcat defense.  An ugly start turned into an even worse finish, as CU closed out their home schedule with a 88-61 loss that dampens the spirit generated by an otherwise happy day in Boulder.

Striking a similar tone from the the game in Tucson, the Buffs came out of the gate wholly unprepared for what they were about to face.  Beginning with an honorary start for senior Ben Mills, Colorado ceded the opening minutes to the 'Cats, who opened up leads as large as 17-points in the early going.  The Buffs failed to hit a field goal for the first 10 minutes, en route to a 22% effort for the first half.  Thankfully, CU wasn't yet ready to give up the fight.  With the roaring crowd behind them, and a little help from foul trouble to many of Arizona's starters, they clawed back to within two possessions at the break. All things considered, I felt happy to even be that close.
Everywhere the Buffs turned, the Wildcats were there to hound them.  From: the BDC
... and then, football coach Mike MacIntyre took the stage.  Attempting to gin up support for the forthcoming spring practice season, he brought the pall of football's slide into irrelevancy into the cathedral of winning that has become the CEC.  Immediately after re-taking the court, the basketball team began to 'pull a football,' and get punked by a better, more prepared team.

It began simply, as Colorado tried to open up things offensively.  When they continued to struggle to make gains against the nation's best defense, however, the defensive walls began to collapse.  As Coach Boyle said after the game, "our frustrations on offense led to a dunk-fest."  Throughout the second half, empty Colorado possessions turned into an impressive array of alley-oops and wide open jump shots. The Wildcats would shoot just under 85% from the field, missing only one two-point shot all half.  For a team that prides itself on shot percentage defense, it's a disaster of epic proportions.
Arron Gordon and the Wildcats embarrassed Colorado at the rim.  From:
Boyle, as is his custom, was blunt after the game.  “I haven’t been embarrassed many times as a coach, but I was embarrassed by the way my team played . . . we have to own it and accept it. The pit in my stomach has more to do with our fans and seniors. They deserve more (but) we deserve what we got tonight.”  It's certainly not the way the team wanted to leave the home portion of the 2013-14 season, but it's not completely without precedent. The Buffs have fallen into a troubling habit of spiking one of the games on their final homestand of the season. Who can forget the lackluster efforts against Stanford in 2012 and Oregon State in 2013?  I don't know if there is an easy answer to explain these hiccups, maybe the team is just starting to look ahead to post-season play, or are distracted by Senior Week happenings, but it's becoming standard (look at Boyle's comments each time, they're eerily similar). Regardless, closing the CEC for the year has become a nightmare, one the team needs to wake up from next season.

Individually, Josh Scott was his usual, solid self.  Against a brutally tough interior defense, Scott posted 18/8 against only one turnover.  The rest of the team, however, struggled mightily.  Askia Booker was only 1-8 from the field in the first half, Xavier Talton never found the space required to get off his shot comfortably, and Wes Gordon battled foul trouble throughout the evening. Even Xavier Johnson, who had been hot, struggled to a 1-10 performance, surely a joy to the members of the Wildcats irked by his comments of last month.

Overall, a night to forget.

On Gameday - 

Ugliness of the game aside, Saturday marked an otherwise positive day for the program.  With ESPN's Gameday program and related festivities featured throughout the day from the CEC, Colorado was granted an entire day of promotion otherwise unheard of in these parts.  While CU took an embarrassing loss that evening, it's a day that will be long remembered.

Enticed by the uniqueness of the situation, I walked up to campus early Saturday to take in the event.  Since I wasn't about to stand in the crowd, I got my fill pretty quickly, but I'm still glad I went.  It was a surreal experience; I just don't associate spectacles of that nature with Colorado Athletics.  There was CU basketball, featured prominently in day-long coverage on the biggest sports platform in the nation.  And it was 100% positive!  For a program that, less than a decade ago, finished in dead last in the Big XII three years running, to suddenly be the host of Gameday and talked about as one of the best organizations in the country is incredible.  The loss is unfortunate, but the overall message of the day is that Colorado Basketball has arrived.
Look at that, just a fantastic showing.  From: the BDC
The day wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of the students to put CU's best face forward.  I'll admit to being very nervous about the response from the student body, particularly after weeks of lackluster support in the stadium.  Who expects students to make a point of getting up at 6am on a Saturday to simply be seen? The kids came through, however, packing the CEC early for Gameday, and returning in the evening to give the team all the support they could ask for.  At tip-off, the arena was as loud as I have ever heard it, and a completely packed south end of the stands had everything to do with it.

Congrats, C-Unit.  You deserve every amount of credit you've received for Saturday.

Lacrosse nabs win in first home game - 

Further adding to the smooth sailing narrative prior to tip-off, the women's lacrosse team, barely over a week old, hosted their first ever home game Saturday afternoon.  Posted up in Folsom Field, even running out behind Ralphie, they proceeded to put on a show for the hundreds in attendance.  Echoing their storybook performance from the season opener, the ladies secured the win, beating local rivals Regis 13-10.

It didn't even take the Buffs a full minute to get on the board, taking a lead 30 seconds into the game that they would never relinquish.  While Regis would score the final four goals of the game, by then CU had things well in hand.  Said head coach Ann Elliott, "We have some things we have to clean up but this is an exciting day for our girls. To be able to play here and come out with a win, it’s awesome. We’ll celebrate it and get back to work tomorrow.”
Fusco lead the way.  From: the BDC
Leading the way for Colorado was midfielder Johnna Fusco, who notched three goals and two assists.  The official game report also notes that she "grabbed a game-high seven ground balls and six draw controls."  I have absolutely no idea what that means, but it sounds awesome!  Sarah Lautman also scored a hat-trick for the Buffs, which included the game's opening tally.

Now at 2-2, CU can look forward to another home game on Tuesday, when they welcome the Temple Owls at 3pm.  After that, they'll head back on the road for a three game set that will cover most of the month.

Happy Monday!

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