|'Momma, there goes that man again.' Bliznyuk started off hot. From: SeattlePI.com|
The most frustrating aspect was that the Buffs were not keying on the one guy in Black and Red that could beat them. Bogdan Bliznyuk, the Eagles' freaky 6-6 point forward, was getting every shot he wanted early, torching defenders like George King and Josh Fortune for seemingly uncontested looks. By the 9:37 mark, he had already accumulated 18 points, and seemed to be on his way to leading a shocking blowout over the home favorites.
|Del Brown and the reserves stanched the bleeding in the first half. From: the Times Call|
After the break, that pulse quickened sharply, thanks to some open looks finally falling from the outside. Josh Fortune would lead the spark with three made three pointers in the final frame, fueling the rise of the once recumbent offensive attack. For the half, CU would shoot 54% from the field, up 20 points from their first half performance. Combined with suffocating defense on Bogdan and the tiring Eagles (32% shooting after half), it was enough for the Buffs to pull away and stave off absolute disaster. The final, 76-68, was more of a sigh of relief than anything else.
|A much better second half performance staved off disaster. From: the BDC|
That's not to say there's nothing about this team that I've enjoyed over the first two months of play. Derrick White is a treasure. A capable scorer, willing passer, and eager defender, he's an All-Pac-12 kind of talent, and one who should continue to shine as we dive into conference play. The development of Deleon Brown is unmistakable, as well. Every minute of playing time that kid is getting right now is earned, and he brings excellent tools and an earnest attitude to the court every night. The Wes Gordon roller coaster is also highly entertaining, if still exasperating, and I continue to marvel at the talent of Xavier Johnson, who is, rather quietly, putting in great shifts. Throw in the return of Dom Collier, and there's still some joy to be found in the product.
With those bright spots in mind, the promise of a few weeks off to clear their heads, and the danger of the opening stretch of conference play immediately over the horizon to draw in the focus, there's a realistic hope that the sum of the whole to finally begin to snap into shape. I fear, however, that the rabbit hole is far deeper than we've discovered through 13 games, and that the introduction of Pac-12 opponents into the mix will only lead to further frustrations. I do hope I'm wrong, however.
As a reminder, there will be no Grab Bag next week, as I will be gallivanting around the Central Time Zone to both Chicago and San Antonio. I will have a Alamo Bowl Preview, though (probably up on the morning of the 28th), and a Utah Basketball Preview (probably up on New Year's Eve), so keep an eye out for both. Normal service will resume the first week of the year.
Thanks all for your clicks in 2016, and I hope you have a happy and safe Holiday Week! As always...