Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday Grab Bag: 70% Good

Late on a Tuesday, I'm straight to the action today.

In the bag, I'm talking the bored shrug against Lipscomb, the 70% good of the football program, and women's action against little sister.

Click below for the bag...

Buffaloes slip past Bisons (sic)- 

There has been a lot of consternation over the last few days, specifically in regards to CU's lackluster 84-75 win over the Lipscomb Bisons (still sic).  Certainly, the Buffs should've beaten the A-Sun minnow by more on their home floor, and I'll even cop to being a little nervous when Lipscomb drew within six points mid-way through the second half.  Still, is there any argument that the problems from that performance stem more from effort and focus against a lesser opponent than quality and execution?  When Colorado was playing to their ability, roughly the first 'quarter' of the game, they were rolling, and it was only a major mental letdown that allowed the game to tighten in the second - not entirely unexpected, considering time, opponent, and crowd.

Without the Wyoming trip (which was a calamity of errors against a quality opponent, ready to pounce), I doubt anyone would be giving the Lipscomb affair more than a second glance.  Perimeter defense was an issue, but that's par for the course with layup-paranoid #TadBall.  The subs struggled to score, but their effectiveness comes and goes with the rhythm of a game, anyways.  I just really don't think there's anything to learn from this game.  Even the good stuff - 20 assists on 27 made baskets, 55% shooting, etc - just doesn't get me going. If the Buffs struggle with focus tomorrow night against San Francisco, or see a repeat of the Wyo fiasco in Athens, GA this weekend, then we have a story. If they earn a series of solid wins over those two, then we have a story.  For now, I'm willing to just chalk Sunday up to post-Thanksgiving malaise, and look for better this week.
Scott and the Buffs played with their foot a bit.  From: the BDC
I can't even really take Josh Scott's huge 29/13/5/3 game all that seriously, since he was doing it over a series of smaller, less athletic forwards (and one big monster).  Lipscomb even, laughably, tried to use single coverage on him a few times, to expected effect (read: none).  His afternoon was impressive, sure, and it's what you would expect, given the opponent and his personal quality, but other than an outpouring of appreciation for Josh's skill (consider that given), there's not much to say.

Really, the only thing I can take from the win over the Bisons (and, again, sic), is the re-emergence of #SkiBall.  Booker went for 18 points on 13 shots and 46% shooting, in, by far, his best game of the year. He even chipped in seven assists, helping to promote a lot of nice ball movement and energy. Lipscomb played to CU's preferred pace (the game was played to 68 possessions), meaning there were more opportunities to break down a defense that wasn't entirely set, but, since we haven't seen it this year, kudos to Ski for lighting the fire.  More of that will be needed in the coming weeks.
Ski seemed to get his Mojo back this weekend. From: the BDC
It's hard, in these early games against smaller opponents, to extrapolate long-term lessons.  I would caution against doing so (remember when the '10-'11 team struggled against Western New Mexico, then boat-raced Missouri?). Just take them at their face value, as necessary wins, and wait for the 'real' games to pop up.  In that light, the Buffs are a big 0-1, and need to really prepare for next week against Georgia and CSU. Those are the games that will be difference between Tournament and NIT.  I just don't see how a bored shrug of an effort against Lipscomb will have much bearing.

The 2014 football season comes to a close - 

I don't know if there could've been a more fitting close to the football season then Saturday's 38-34 loss to Utah.  It was the entire year in a nut-shell:  Good enough to compete; not good (or ballsy) enough to win. How else do you explain a game in which the Buffs played with a lead for the majority of the action, kept the opposing offense scoreless in the 4th quarter, but failed to earn the only stat that matters - a win.  Sometimes you just are who you are, and CU played to #TheScript perfectly.

Take for example Sefo Liufau, who had a generally strong game.  20-31, 317 yards passing; not bad, solid. But he threw a game-killing pick-six on a busted screen play, and was his typically, check-heavy self. How about special teams coordinator Toby Neinas, who had his charges busting some nice returns (32.5 per), but fell asleep on a critical punting situation, allowing Utah to score an easy first down via a direct fake? Or head coach Mike MacIntyre, who had the Buffs in a position to win this one, but eschewed going for a long 4th-and-2 from Ute 46, and waked off at the head of the first team in the last 100 years of CU football to go winless in conference play?  It's the same stuff we saw two months ago.  This bunch is football capable, but not football fluent.  When push came to shove, they just didn't have the last bit of focus, preparation, or whatever to push themselves over the top in winnable ballgames.  Damn frustrating.
Despite a season of improvement, MacIntyre and the Buffs are still looking up at mediocrity.
I used to talk about the 2009-10 Colorado basketball team (from the before time, the long, long ago) in terms of being 70% good.  You could tell, with a young core built around juniors Cory Higgins and Marcus Relphorde, sophomores Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson, and all-world freshman Alec Burks, that the Buffs were on the upswing.  Yet, for whatever reason (*ahem*), they kept failing to capitalize.  That group was proficient enough to just miss against Gonzaga, and take Arizona and #1 KU to overtime, but still finish a game under .500, and fail to even get into the NIT.  That's what I think we're seeing here - the 2014 football team is 70% good. Strong enough to fight UCLA, Arizona, and Utah tooth and nail, but not good enough to become truly relevant.

That final 30%, however, is a bitch to get.  On the hardwood, CU found it via an impromptu coaching switch. The football program won't have that luxury; they're going to have to manage it on their own.  The defense will have to continue to get better, the offense will have to cut-out the killer mistakes, and the coaching staff will have to get more aggressive.  That's just the only answer.  Otherwise, in a loaded Pac-12, stuffed with teams that will do whatever it takes not to lose to the team from the gridiron-equivalent of the short bus, the close-but-not-quites will continue.  You have nine months.  Get it done.

Women's hoops re-claims the Omni - 

The Omni Classic has long been a benchmark for CU.  Hosting the tournament is a yearly affair for the ladies, and it's expected that they win it as often as they hold it (46-10 all time in the Omni).  Behind Saturday's statement 87-81 win over little sister in double-overtime, the women's basketball team did just that, taking home the prize for the sixth-straight year.

With the men taking a snooze on Sunday, and the football team fighting their own demons on Saturday, this was the best, pure exhibition of CU joy to be found this weekend.  The Buffs had to mount a major second half comeback before sweating out tough offensive possessions in the final seconds of both regulation and the first overtime, but somehow managed to keep the win from slipping away.  In regulation, it was senior Jen Reese, who tied up the game with 13 seconds to play with a pair of clutch free throws.  In the first OT, it was sophomore Lauren Huggins, who saved CU with a last-second three pointer to push the action onwards. After that series of great escapes, it seemed a fail acompli that the Buffs would pull ahead in the decisive extra set of five minutes, and indeed they did.
A happy bunch of Buffs refused to quit against CSU. From:
As good as Reese (26/14) and Huggins were, however, the story of the game was senior Lexy Kresl, who played all but one minute of the 50 available, and recorded a 12/11/11 triple double.  Deservingly, she was awarded the Classic's MVP award, having also gone for 17/7/4 against Missouri State on Friday.  As Coach Lappe said, the Buffs needed all 11 of her rebounds, and all 11 of her assists on Saturday in order to claim victory.

The team is still struggling to come to terms with life without Arielle Roberson, out for the year with an ACL tear, but sits at 6-1 after the opening weeks.  With a tough stretch featuring road trips to Iowa and Missouri on deck, momentum-building wins like this will help immensely.

Happy Tuesday!

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