Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Grab Bag: A Rough Friday Night

On Friday Night, University of Colorado Athletics dominated ESPN2.  Between the basketball game tipping off at 3pm and the football game kicking off a little after 7pm, various forms of the Buffs were on the Deuce for about six hours.  Suck it, rest of the country!  Unfortunately for our purposes, what the nation saw when they tuned in was a pair of rough losses for our heroes.  It always nice to see the Ralphie logo on the national air waves, but damnit if I don't wish we could win a few of these every now and then.  But, hey, at least they weren't blowouts?


Today in the bag, I'm recapping the first men's basketball game of the year, closing the book on the football team's home schedule, and checking in with the women's basketball and volleyball teams.

Click below for the bag...

Resilient Buffs fall to Cyclones in SD - 

Playing a top-10 team in essentially their backyard was never going to be a recipe for early-season success. That was the uphill climb the BasketBuffs faced when they played the #7 Iowa State Cyclones in Sioux Falls, SD on Friday afternoon. But the team took to the challenge with aplomb, fighting back against a series of Cyclone runs to stay within reach; in fact, for a brief moment in the second half, I even believed the team could steal one away from home.  Some struggles scoring in the paint and with turnovers, however, doomed them to a 68-62 season-opening defeat. I guess you can only ask for so much on opening day.

It starts on defense, where I liked some of what I saw. Even though ISU shot 45% from the floor, in a season dedicated to the return of #TadBall, there were the Buffs grabbing 80% of rebounding opportunities, and holding the high-scoring Cyclones well under one point per possession. They even kept the 'Clones quiet on the perimeter, keeping them to only 2-10 shooting from deep.  For much of the game, this was a half-court affair, which was where Colorado excelled; it was only when the Cyclones got their jets revved up in transition that the Buffs struggled.  ISU fed off of CU's 18 turnovers, turning them into 16 points; six of those turnovers, by the way, were caused by sophomore point guard Dom Collier.  It was more than enough to undercut the good work being done elsewhere.
A few too many turnovers from Collier got the Cyclones going on offense.  From:
That's how the Buffs found themselves down by as many as 14 early in the second half.  A number of ugly turnovers had blossomed into a Cyclone scoring run, and CU was in danger of being blown out.  But the Buffs turned to something that could be a difference maker this winter: outside shooting.  They got a number of quick-hitters going on the edge, knocking down three after three to close the gap.  Combined with the work on the boards, it was gritty, winning basketball, and almost had them in position for the steal.  All of a sudden, after an 11-0 run, CU had closed that gap to only three points.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to last, with ISU responding with a run of their own to the Buffs at arms length for the rest of the way, but, for the game, CU shot 39% from deep, knocking down nine of 23 shots.  Those numbers were buoyed by a breakout performance from George King. Yes, the hyped-up redshirt sophomore came in off the bench to shoot 4-8 from deep. There were some mistakes overall, including a number defensively, but he was able to provide 14/6 in 27 minutes, and looked worthy of at least some of the discussion from this offseason.  If those shooting numbers can hold up, both for King and the Buffs as a whole, this could end up being a very fun season.

Josh Scott, then, presents a problem.   He started the season off with some nice headline numbers -- an 11/11 double-double and three blocks.  But the heralded post really struggled with his coring touch inside, missing 11 of his 16 shots on the day (eight of nine in the first half), including a number of bunnies. It was far from his best day, as he was pressed by a phenomenal pair of defensive forwards, ISU's Jameel McKay and Georges Niang.  It certainly didn't help matter that Scott's running mate, Wesley Gordon, was struggling, as well.  Wes was behind the action for much of the afternoon, struggling with foul trouble and only putting up 4/3 in 20 minutes. Without either doing much of anything, the Buffs got next to nothing from their front court, struggling both offensively and defensively, while Iowa State got almost everything from theirs (52 of their points were scored in the paint).
Scott struggled throughout the action on Saturday.  From: The Aurora Sentinel
Luckily, then, we shouldn't expect to see a similar interior dichotomy the rest of the season.  There are no teams in the Pac-12 with Iowa State's front line, and I'd be shocked - simply shocked - to see All-Pac-12 candidate Josh Scott struggle that much at any other point this winter. That's why I was so enthused by some of the other aspects of the performance against Iowa State.  If the Buffs can get those kind of returns on the perimeter, especially from George King, while returning good numbers in half-court defense and on the boards, then the wins will come.  My only worry, and one that was only confirmed Friday, is that the point guards will continue to struggle.  18 turnovers and a 23% turnover rate, even against that strong ISU club, is inexcusable. It's what we saw for much of last season, and something that will have to be fixed going forward.

Football Buffs lose another close one on Senior Day - 

It was more of the same from the Buffs in their final home game of 2015.  They held a lead at halftime against the top-25 USC Trojans, and can even claim to have dominated the first half against their Pac-12 South rivals.  But, a run of 24 unanswered points turned momentum by the end of the 3rd quarter, and the usual comeback attempt came up short.  The final, 27-24 USC, is just the latest chapter in #TheScript; that repetitive, painful, and unavoidable narrative device that we've all come to loathe.
Fueled by Jered Bell's first half interception, the Buffs owned the first half.  From:
The game turned at the end of the first quarter.  The Buffs held a 7-3 lead, and were looking to add to it while driving at the USC 27-yard line.  But a 2nd-and-8 ended with a sack, and BuffNation was forced to watch as 3-year starting QB Sefo Liufau came up lame on the final play of the first quarter. He would limp off to the locker room, later to be diagnosed with a Lisfranc fracture to his left foot; an injury that ends his season.  Suddenly, and without warning, freshman QB Cade Apsay was forced into the action.

For a time, at least, Apsay was not an unmitigated disaster in relief.  His first full drive, which began off of a Jered Bell interception, ended up in the endzone, and he didn't commit a turnover on the evening. Throughout the action he displayed good arm strength, while completing 18 of 23 passes.  However, Cade was a little skittish in the pocket (understandable), struggled looking down field, and took five sacks.  Not all were his fault, but indecision and poor pocket awareness were an issue. Let me say this plainly: if Sefo Liufau doesn't come down with that injury, the Buffs win.
A horribly unfair way for Liufau's season to end. From: Bleacher Report
As it was, Colorado still had a chance to win, or at least tie, in the 4th quarter.  The defense was playing out of their minds, holding the high-powered Trojan offense to only 333 yards for the night and 5-of-13 on 3rd down to keep hope alive.  The difference, then, came in the margins.  CU missed a potentially game-tying 51-yard field goal attempt at the start of the 4th, and watched as Apsay barely overthrew an open Devin Ross on Colorado's final offensive snap -- 10 potential points that would've turned the tide for good. Missed opportunities, misadventures on special teams, bad luck... just another day in the life of CU football.

The Bulle(i)t points - 

  • Alex Kinney continues to make the memories of his early season punting issues irrelevant.  He fired off four kicks for a total of 173 yards on Friday, including two that pinned the Trojans inside their own five yard line.  The kid has a chance to be a great one by the time he leaves Boulder.
  • Christian Powell returned from exile on his senior day, only to cough up yet another crucial fumble. The back-breaker, which lead directly to the Trojans taking their first lead of the ballgame, earned my first football #sigh of the night.
  • Serious props to the defense for hounding Juju Smith-Schuster.  The All-American candidate was held to only three catches for 66 yards and one score.  They also kept Cody Kessler, who torched them for seven touchdowns last fall, to only three scoring tosses.  Really, they played very well all night long.

Women surge to hoops and volleyball wins to salvage the weekend - 

While the men in both football and basketball struggled Friday night, the ladies dominated the action at the Coors Events Center on Saturday.  In both basketball and volleyball, the women's teams secured big home wins, easing some of the Friday-night pain.
Huggins and the red-hot shooting Buffs ran away from LMU on Saturday. From:
Saturday afternoon, Linda Lappe's basketball team played keep-away from Loyola Marymount, never trailing throughout a 92-81 season-opening win.  In a game that featured 75 free throw attempts (60 total fouls called, yeesh), the Buffs' excellent 86.7% shooting from the stripe proved to be the difference.  The team was paced by freshman point guard Kennedy Leonard, who knocked down nine of her 10 freebies, scoring 18 total points to go along with eight assists.  CU also shot a nice 8-15 from beyond the arc, lead by 4-5 three point shooting from Lauren Huggins, and got a whopping total of 40 points from their bench.  They probably can't sustain allowing teams to come into their own building and put up 81 all year, but it's nice to see the offense clicking on all cylinders, nonetheless.

In the nightcap, Liz Kritza's volleyball team scored a resounding 3-0 sweep over #19 Arizona.  All told, the Buffs only committed nine errors in the three sets, hitting a combined .375.  Senior outside hitter Alexis Austin lead the way, hauling in 15 kills against only one miss-fire on 32 swings.  It's the fourth-straight time that CU had beaten the UofA in volleyball, with the 'Cats coming in ranked each match, and sixth upset of a ranked opponent this season.  The ladies haven't been the most consistent of groups this fall, currently standing with a 16-12 (8-8) record, but they can still get after even the best of opponents, as proved Saturday night.
Arizona had nothing for the Buffs Saturday night.  From:
Fresh off their opening day win, Lappe's BasketBuffs will remain on home soil this week, as they take on Northern Colorado Thursday night.  Kritza and her VolleyBuffs, however, will head out to the Bay Area, looking for some wins to pep up the Tournament resume, and help secure 5th place in the league table. Hopefully both can keep the winning ways going as the calendar winds its way towards Thanksgiving.

Happy Monday!

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