Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday Grab Bag: ... and the hits just keep on coming.

I'm slammed at work this week, so the bag will be short and sweet. Just two topics: I'm talking the shortfall against USC, and how the rest of the Pac-12 fared in men's hoops.

Clock below for the bag...

Buffs miss chance to break slide against USC - 

The struggle bus continues to roll on, unabated, over at the Coors Events Center.  Faced with a beatable opponent on home hardwood, Colorado started strong in their game against USC, roaring out to a 22-11 lead mid-way through the first half.  Inattention to the #TadBall staples of defense and rebounding, however, cost them dearly, as the Trojans chipped away at that lead with both with points inside and second looks off the glass.  Eventually, USC took charge, leveraging control of the game in the final frame. Some last minute gasps of air gave BuffNation hope, but CU eventually fell 71-68 in Boulder.  The losing streak to start Pac-12 play is now up to five.
If you do this for long enough, the pain fades away...
Everything started out alright.  The strong shooting performance on display against UCLA the previous week carried over, as Colorado went 7-11 from three-point range to start the game.  With all those shots falling, the points were piling up, and smiles were popping up all over the building.  But, the offensive performance was a mile wide and an inch deep without support off the ball.  The problem was that the Buffs, while scoring as needed, were not putting in the work defensively or on the glass.  They were getting knifed on the pick-and-roll, and punished down low by emerging USC center Chimezie Metu (he had 20 points by half).  In total, USC would put up 20 points in the paint by the time the teams headed to the locker room, buoyed by a whopping nine offensive boards. Throw in a number of heedless turnovers from CU that the Trojans were all to eager to convert to points (11 1st half turnovers, 14 points off of them), and the early advantage that the Buffs had built vanished into thin air.

Into the second half, the worrying trends defensively and on the glass only continued, anchoring Colorado into an see-saw battle that they couldn't escape from, even with USC struggling from the floor (shot under 40%, only 3-19 from deep).  As the media timeouts flew by, the Trojans got more and more comfortable, and eventually started building a multiple-possession lead.  At this point, the Buffs seemed checked out, having gone over five minutes without a made field goal. So, with three minutes to play, I figured it was all over with Southern Cal holding a seven-point lead and under three minutes to play.
Victory, again, eludes the Buffs.  From: the AP
That's when Colorado seemed to wake up.  They started locking in defensively, earning stops and securing the resulting rebounds.  A layup by George King got them within five, then a three from XJ got them within a pair, then another three from the senior swing forward, this time of the ludicrous variety, fell to give the Buffs a lead worthy of the #Pac12AfterDark meme.  In a span of two minutes of game time, CU had erased their deficit, and were once again playing with the result in their hands.

But, it wasn't to be.  Colorado couldn't get the stop they desperately needed on the ensuing possession, with the Trojans going back to Metu in the paint after spending most of the half forgetting he was available.  He nailed a hook to retake the lead, which put the onus back on the Buffs.  They buckled under the pressure, first with a failed layup attempt from King, then an awkward desperation heave from the junior after nothing else materialized.  Game over; season in full tailspin.
Colorado wasn't ready for Chimezie Metu.  From: Stamford Advocate
The key to the game was the play of Chimezie Metu. He was clearly the best player on the court in the first half, keeping the Trojans in the game right as it seemed to be slipping away from them. While Chimezie cooled off after the break, thanks to a concerted effort from the Buffs to front, rotate, and otherwise force him off the ball, he would finish with 24 points on 11-14 shooting from the floor, hitting everything from true jumpers to half-hooks.  For 20 minutes, Colorado simply had no answer for him, which made up for a rather lackluster game from star point guard Jordan McLaughlin.  For the Buffs, XJ had a nice night, including that answered prayer that gave the team hope of victory. King also had a solid 16/9 line, and was one of the few Buffs attacking the glass, but the numbers cover up four turnovers, a pair of crucial missed free throws down the stretch, and that missed layup in the final minute.

In the end, however, CU is left with a harrowing, ugly truth.  They are now 0-5 in Pac-12 play, having earned every bit of that record, and well adrift from the prospect of any meaningful basketball. Coach Boyle put it down to a lack of leadership, which is hard to argue with, but the cause almost doesn't matter.  Fact is, there's really no fix to this beast, at this point.  With this many seniors, and a three weeks of conference play already behind them, it is what it is.  Hopes of the NCAA Tournament are gone, and even the NIT would take a strong closing run, at this point.  From here on out, they're a bunch playing for pride.  It sucks to say, it sucks to contemplate, but there it is.

Around the world of Pac-12 Basketball - 

- UCLA 83 - Utah 82 -

The only game in the Pac-12 of any consequence or drama this week took place in Salt Lake City on Saturday.  UCLA, fresh off their high-flying display in Boulder, took on the Utes in a nail-biter that came down to the final series of possessions.  The result would turn on a blatant no-call from the refs as Lonzo Ball whacked Kyle Kuzma on the arm during a put-back attempt.  The foul would've put Kuzma on the line with a chance to give his team the lead with two made free throws.  The adjudicatory respite was all the Bruins would need to circle the wagons, as they escaped Huntsman with a huge win and sweep in the Rockies.
UCLA survives with some #Pac12Refs mishegas.  From: BlockU
For the record, Bryce Alford was only 3-7 from three-point range in this one, proving that he is human.  In fact, the Bruins, while still putting up 83 points, were held to 'just' 49% shooting from the floor, and only 31% from deep.  I guess they left it all in Boulder.  You're welcome, Utah.

- Oregon 85 - Oregon St 43 -

If you're looking for some laughs, a quick perusal of this stat line might be just what you're looking for. The problem is, of course, that this Colorado team still has two games to play against the Ducks, but that worry is for a future date.  In the mean time, just marvel at the absolute ass-kicking the team from Eugene put down on their in-state rivals.  The Beavers, already struggling this season, have been without star forward Tres Tinkle since Thanksgiving break, with his return still far afield.  In his absence, they're barely half as good as the Ducks... which kind of makes sense, if you think about it.

-  Stanford 76 - Washington 69 -

Rounding out a rather lame weekend of Pac-12 action, the Cardinal managed to defend their home floor against the invasion from Seattle.  I don't pick this game to spotlight because I care even slightly about the outcome.  Really, both of these teams are garbage, and even the possibility of a trainwreck couldn't have gotten me in that band-less gym in Palo Alto to see it.  Nope, I'm simply mentioning this one because CU next travels to visit the 'Dawgs in the Northwest.
Fultz can rise above the competition, even if his teammates can't.  From: the AP
So, from that perspective, please do note that freshman guard Markelle Fultz is insanely good.  He put up 34/7/3/2/2 with his teammates doing... very little else in support.  If you're looking for a reason to watch on Wednesday, and the allure of Colorado Basketball alone isn't enough to get your hand to the clicker, I would say tune in for Fultz, because he's capable of some special games each and every time he steps onto the court.  In this one, he nearly brought the Huskies all the way back from a 21-point deficit.

Happy Tuesday!

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