Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday Grab Bag: a SoCal split

I hope everyone enjoyed a happy and safe President's Day weekend!

It's a huge week, not only for the men's basketball team, but the program and athletic department at large. Fighting for their postseason lives, CU welcomes both a pair of rivals from Arizona and a national television extravaganza to Boulder.  Oh, and did I mention it was senior week?  If that wasn't enough, the lacrosse team is also hosting their first-ever home game at Folsom on Saturday.  I've already thrown out any hope of getting work done this week, and it's only Tuesday.


Today in the bag, I'm talking CU's win over USC, something new from the Athletic Department, and a little Olympic hockey.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs earn split in LA - 

Playing in a self-described 'must win' game at USC, CU did what they needed to do, and earned a solid victory over the woeful Trojans to split their road trip to the City of Angels.  Backed by the typically strong SoCal chapter of BuffNation, Colorado controlled the run of play from start to finish, rarely giving USC any footing.  There were, as always, a couple of nits to pick, but, for the most part, the 83-74 win was well-earned.
Booker and the Buffs slipped past USC in LA. 
The margin of victory could've been higher; you would certainly expect as much looking at the top-line numbers.  Leading by as many as 18 points in the second half, CU held the Trojans to 37% shooting, while knocking down 50% of their own shots.  By all rights, this game should've been closer to 20-points than 10. Basketball, however, has a funny way of covering up the truth. The Buffs didn't close well, coughed up 17 turnovers, and allowed 16 offensive rebounds.  While Colorado was never really challenged for the 'W,' those factors contributed to making for a full 40-minute effort, rather than a mop-up one.  Luckily, unlike the Olympics, style points matter little here, and the nine-point victory is far better than any losing alternative.

Continuing their offensive up-swing, five Buffs finished in double figures.  Lead by Xavier Johnson and his 20 points, the group accounted for all but four of CU's total of 83. Behind Johnson was a pair of usual suspects (Askia Booker - 18/8/6, and Josh Scott - 17/8), but also the unheralded duo of Xavier Talton and Jaron Hopkins.  The point guard platoon combined for 24/8/7 against only one turnover, quite a reversal from a few weeks ago when both looked lost on the court.  Coach Boyle flipped their roles in the Utah game, and the move has paid dividends in the succeeding weeks.
XJ manhandled the Trojans. From: the AP
Of deep interest to the program was the return of injured power forward Wesley Gordon to the lineup. After suffering a sprained ankle prior to the Washington game, it's been a long wait for the re-emergence of 'the Beast.' Unfortunately, it was plainly evident that he is still not 100%.  He was slow, anchored to the ground, and otherwise limited athletically over his 11 minutes off the bench.  Still, as @William_Whelan pointed out, a limited Gordon is still a viable defensive option on a team missing its three best defenders.  Regardless, as Dustin Thomas continues to battle growing pains, the sooner Gordon and Tre'Shaun Fletcher (who has been practicing with the team) return to the court, the better.

Overall, I don't think there's much to take from the win over the Trojans.  Beyond simply being a much needed road notch in the belt, it's essentially par for the course.  I know nothing about the team today that I didn't know Sunday morning.  CU will have to take at least a few of their final five games to make any waves of note.  A pair of wins this week would suffice.

A new era for CU Athletics - 

While the men's basketball team continued to re-invent itself in California, a herd of brand new Buffaloes took the field for the first time in Florida.  Welcome to the fold, women's lacrosse!  Colorado's 15th intercollegiate program played the first two games of their existence over the weekend, making plenty of history in the process.

In the inaugural tilt, CU took on the Stetson Hatters down in Deland, FL.  In storybook fashion, they dominated their first action, and easily grabbed a 12-4 win.  Remember the name Cali Castagnola, as the attacking midfielder grabbed the honor of notching both the first goal and the first hat trick in program history. The California product netted the first three points of the game, setting a tone that the Buffs would carry throughout the proceedings.  A perfect start to the newborn outfit.
A happy beginning.  From:
Two days later against Jacksonville, the results were less pristine.  While CU managed to take a 3-2 lead, the Dolphins went on a 11-3 run that put the game to bed.  The Buffs would mount a minor comeback in the second half, but still fell 20-13.  I know less than nothing about women's lacrosse, so I won't even try to put the loss in perspective.  Still, for a program learning to walk, a split in the opening road-trip strikes me as promising.  I'll take it!

After a mid-week trip to Denver to play the Pioneers, CU will return home for their first ever game in Boulder on Saturday afternoon.  For those football fans in withdrawal, it's important to note that the game will be played in Folsom, giving you an excuse to get back into the prettiest facility in America.  Face-off (?) is set for high noon, and slots in nicely between the College Gameday festivities that morning, and the men's game with Arizona that evening.

Olympic hockey thoughts - 

Outside of curling, the only sport in the Winter Olympics that interests me in the slightest is hockey.  What's more, with the NHL allowing their talent to represent their respective countries (maybe for the last time?), the multi-week tournament continues to be the best exhibition of the sport outside of the Stanley Cup Final. Even with the awkward time differential, I'll walk through broken glass to take in the spectacle.

So far, the games have been fantastic.  Possibly the best of the bunch was the insane US/Russia game from over the weekend.  In front of a hostile Russian crowd, the Americans scratched and clawed their way to a 3-2 shootout win that was not without its share of controversy.  A goal that would've given Russia the lead late in the third period was disallowed due to the net being just off its moorings.  The call set off a rage of protests not seen in the country since Pussy Riot.  If that kind of on-ice quality can combine with a international incident over a qualifying round game, just imagine what we're in for headed towards the medal rounds!
Welcome to American Olympic lore, TJ Oshie.  From: ESPN
Going forward, I'm not convinced the Russians, who, having slipped to fifth, and have to win three games instead of two to reach the gold medal game, are out of it.  They have a softer side of the bracket, and still have the home crowd behind them.  For the US, it's a shame that, assuming a win in the quarterfinals, any game against the Canadians won't be for a medal.  That said, I'm looking forward to that potential semifinal more than I can possibly express.  Play the game at 3AM, I don't care, that's appointment television.

Happy Holiday Tuesday!

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