Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: Back on Track?

With a short turn around to tomorrow's game with Utah, there's little time for idle chit-chat.  Straight to business!


Today in the bag, I'm talking the beat down of USC, how the rest of the Pac-12 fared over the weekend, and a little NFL playoffs.

Click below for the bag...

Throttling USC - 

Playing their second game without Josh Scott in just over 36 hours, Colorado claimed a massive win over USC, knee-capping to woe-begotten stepchildren of Dunk City 86-65 on Sunday afternoon. The win tops off a perfect weekend for the Buffs, as they scored a home double over the SoCal schools. Not the mightiest feat in the world, but, for a team that had been gut-checked in non-conference play, it was a strong statement that the rumors of their demise had been slightly exaggerated.
CU showed no mercy in a dismantling of USC.  From: the BDC
The Trojans were on their heels from the opening tip.  Playing without star point guard Jordan McLaughlin, they had neither the defensive acumen, nor the offensive wherewithal to play with Colorado at altitude.  CU pressured the ball, turning defense into offense; a style that kick-started a 14-0 run towards the end of the first half that all but killed the contest off.  For the game, the Buffs would score 20 points off of 13 USC turnovers.  Going further, I said before the game that transition would be key - Colorado got 23 points on the break, against a big fat goose egg for Southern Cal.  The game was won outside of the halfcourt.

No Jelly was no problem for the Buffs, as unheralded players like Dustin Thomas and Tory Miller stepped up to fill the void left by the ailing Scott.  Thomas, especially, was on fire offensively, knocking down a career-high 17 points buoyed by 3-3 shooting from outside.  While he only had two rebounds, it was still his best all-around game in Black and Gold, as he also chipped in two assists and three steals against no turnovers.  For the big freshman Miller, it was all about finally getting some extended run, and proving he belongs at this level. Putting up 6/4/2 against no turnovers in 12 minutes, the Baby Bull showed a wide array of advanced moves on both sides of the court.  Combined with their efforts against UCLA, the oft-maligned bench did themselves plenty of favors this weekend.
"Who, me?" Yeah, you, Dustin.  Hell of a job!  From: the BDC
Not to be outdone, the SoCal duo of Ski Booker and Xavier Johnson combined for 35/9 in slightly reduced minutes.  For Booker, it was another efficient showing, with the little spark plug needing only seven shots to produce his 18 points.  He also tallied seven assists against only one turnover.  XJ continued his yeoman's work up front, as he again spent a fair share of minutes as a power forward.  His string of solid performances continued with 17 points on 7-10 shooting. When these two are on their game, CU always has a chance. Now with the bench chipping in, the Buffs look like themselves, again.

Believe me, I'm not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.  USC is an overly young, questionably coached squad that is miles from relevancy, and UCLA is an inconsistent mess right now.  It's easy for Colorado to look good against defenses that soft and loose.  That said, CU went from finding ways to lose in December, to finding ways to have fun over the weekend.  That's the Buffs I wrote about back in October, and, even if the road ahead may shake them back down to earth, it was good to see the team firing on all cylinders - #TadBall and otherwise.

Around the Pac-12 - 

Utah 71 - UCLA 39 -

Speaking of the downward spiraling mess that is the UCLA Bruins, they looked outright awful against the Utes.  Sure, Utah is generally going to be a terror in Salt Lake City (where the Buffs head next), but UCLA only managed to shoot 29% from the field, 9% from three, and were out of it from the opening minute. Nearly a repeat of their embarrassment against Kentucky.
The swarming Utes left little for the Bruins on Sunday.
For Utah, Delon Wright put up 11/7/5/4 without really having to try.  11 of the 12 Utes who saw the court figured in the score sheet.  I would rather have molar surgery while sober than play this bunch in the Beehive State.

Stanford 68 - Washington 60 - 

Hey, remember when Washington ripped through their non-conference schedule, and forced their way into the top-25?  Well, I hope you took a picture, because they came crashing down this weekend in the Bay Area.  0-2, with nothing to show for their efforts; the road is a bitch.
Randle skied over the stumbling Huskies.
The capper was an overtime loss in Palo Alto, featuring an All-Pac-12 performance from the Cardinal's Chasson Randle.  He scored 24 points, including the game-tying layup that forced the overtime session. Once in the extra frame, Stanford rolled, sending the Huskies packing.

Washington State 69 - Cal 66 -

The Cougars pulled the upset of the weekend by clipping the Golden Bears in Berkeley.  WSU owned the paint, with the pair of Josh Hawkinson and Jordan Railey providing a combined 35/17.
Losing to WSU at home is never a good sign.
It was a shocker for Cal, who had claimed a major victory over Washington just a few nights before. Everyone outside of Jordan Mathews was ice cold from the floor, with stars like David Kravish particularly absent.  It's losses like this one from the Pac-12's second tier teams that will keep this a three-bid league, at most.

Arizona 73 - ASU 49 -

The Giant Death Robot did as they are wont to do, clobbering their in-state rival by allowing fewer made field goals (14) than turnovers forced (22). Not a single Sun Devil finished in double-figure scoring, as the swarming Arizona 'D' held fast in the desert.  I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but, barring a tremendous run by Utah, the Wildcats look unbeatable in a very squishy Pac-12.

Around the NFL Playoffs - 

Dallas 24 - Detroit 20 -

In a battle of playoff futility, Tony Romo helped Dallas come back from 20-7 down in the second half to secure their first postseason win in five years.  The Eastern Illinois product, infamous for his January failings, finally seemed to get the monkey off his back with a 59-yard go ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
Romo somehow avoided 'the Romo.'
Detroit, still mired in their own playoff rut, could barely move the ball after early in the third, petering out when they seemed to have advancement in their hands.  The Cowboys now move on to face Green Bay, which is a whole different animal than the inconsistent Lions.

Carolina 27 - Arizona 16 -

Working through a steady drizzle, the Carolina Panthers defense did what no other playoff squad had done before, holding something called Ryan Lindley and the Arizona Cardinals to just 78 yards of total offense. At just 1.7 yards per play, the Cards set a new record for offensive futility in the playoffs on their way out the door.  I guess you can't ask much from a team on their third string quarterback, but... dayum that's awful. The Panthers, still not over .500 on the year, now move on to face Seattle, leaving the NFC seemingly devoid of any interesting action in round two.

Indianapolis 26 - Cincinnati 10 -

Behind a typically solid 376-yard performance from Andrew Luck, the Colts drove past Cincy.  Not a very interesting game, the Bengals failed to score after halftime, and still haven't won a playoff game since 1990.
Andrew Luck had a fantastic game against the Bengals.
Indy now heads to Denver for one of those cult-of-personality tilts that the NFL loves to promote.  Peyton Manning versus his former team for a spot in the AFC title game?  I can hear ESPN creaming their collective pants already.

Baltimore 30 - Pittsburgh 17 -

In the lone road upset of the weekend, the Ravens beat their AFC Central rivals in demonstrative fashion. Baltimore sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and forced three turnovers to stun the hometown Steelers. Mr Elite, Joe Flacco, had a solid evening, not posting any gaudy stat numbers (259 yards passing), but constantly keeping his team pointed in the right direction (no turnovers). It's on to New England for the Ravens, a game which wouldn't really surprise me either way.

Happy Tuesday!

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