Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Grab Bag: RIP, Rowdy

Yesterday, the Athletic Department confirmed the passing of CU's beloved Ralphie IV.  Mascot, revered icon, noble beast; "Rowdy" (her given name) was the embodiment of the Colorado spirit over her 10-year career, having led the football team onto the field in more than 75 contests. She was there when the 2001 team won the Big XII title, there when the 2006 team went to Georgia, and there when the 2007 team stunned #3 Oklahoma.  Overall, she appeared in six bowl games and four Big XII championships.
We'll miss you, Rowdy.  From: 9 News
Big, powerful, rumbling, her running style was distinctly different from the sprinting act of her successor, Ralphie V ("Blackout").  Indeed, it befit the older era of plodding three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football that she starred in.  She was the buffalo I played for at CU, and, despite the near-decade that has passed since her retirement in 2008, the one I still think of when I imagine 'Ralphie.'

Having lived a long life for a bison, nearly 20 years, Rowdy's death does not come as a surprise, but it is nonetheless a sad moment.  RIP, Rowdy.  Enjoy running with the great herd in the sky.


Today in an abbreviated bag, I'm talking the season-ender in Orlando, and the Colorado Women with their own NIT push.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs fall out of NIT in Orlando - 

Turn out the lights, the party's over. Given one last breath of life, the Colorado Buffaloes ventured east to take on the Central Florida Knights in the first round of the NIT.  A dream run to Madison Square Garden wasn't to be, however, with the Buffs falling victim to a tidal wave of jump shots from the home side. A last-second gasp of points gave BuffNation some fleeting hope of a miracle response to the buzzer, but the game settled into a 79-74 final.  Welcome to the offseason.

It wasn't a terrible effort.  It wasn't devoid of passion or buy-in, as so often befalls teams in the undercard March event.  It was, however, largely emblematic of the team's performance throughout the year.  You could see flashes here and there of a team that could be, but those flashes were too often covered up by struggling defense or faltering execution.  The total not quite being the sum of the parts, once again. In all, CU would allow 54% shooting from the field and the same mark from deep. On the road, no team is going to be able to make up those numbers, even with a +8 advantage on the offensive glass.  While CU exhibited solid offensive execution in the first half to keep things in reach, their shooting numbers plummeted under 40% in the final frame as desperation set in.  In total, Colorado would shoot just 9-33 from deep for the game -- they just couldn't keep pace with the points they were allowing.  Knights BJ Taylor and Matt Williams combined for 9-13 shooting behind the arc and 43 points overall; perimeter defense knifing the program, once again.
Colorado couldn't solve UCF, ending the season.  From: 247 sports
While the game was not the heroic victory some of us had hoped for, it was a glorious final stand for some of the seniors.  Derrick White went out guns blazing, firing off one last 30-point performance (oddly, all four of his 30+ lines this season came in defeat) with the sun setting on his collegiate career.  He finished with 30/6/6, and didn't leave the court til the end of the game -- the bittersweet finish on the incredible souffle of basketball he crafted this year.  White was joined in the honors circle, surprisingly, by Josh Fortune.  The oft-maligned senior shooter went off for 12 points, including some big buckets, to go along with four boards.  A vision of the J44 I had hoped to see more of this year.  Xavier Johnson also chipped in double-figures in scoring, adding 13 points, while Wes Gordon totaled 7/3/2 as he went toe-to-toe with giant UCF center Tacko Fall.  All-in-all, a good showing by the four seniors in the final action in Black in Gold.

None of their efforts, though, could slow the dawning realization that the team we saw in the regular season would be the team we saw in the NIT. As a result, the Buffs settle into a 19-15 final record, well short of any and all goals that they could've claimed to be striving for at the start of the campaign.  You are, famously, what your record says you are, and this team was, decidedly, 19-15. Good, at times, yet fatally flawed in the balance.  We all wanted so much more, but reality is rarely so generous as to provide what we want over what we deserve.  In essence, it is what it is.

CU Women continue to make NIT push - 

While the CU men's basketball team is already into their offseason mode, the women continue on, unabated.  Selected for their own NIT push, they've won two games over the past week to make the Sweet Sixteen of that field, an accomplishment that should not be overlooked.  In doing so, the squad under first year head coach JR Payne have guaranteed themselves a winning record for the season, something the program hasn't experienced in three years.

The fun started last Thursday in Boulder with a dominant win over UNLV.  Kennedy Leonard was at her best, as usual, pacing the team with 23 points and five assists.  The sparkplug guard was 4-8 from deep, and only committed one turnover in 38 minutes of play.  Backed by 16 points from backcourt mate Alexis Robinson and a near double-double from swing forward Haley Smith, it was more than enough to push around the Rebels, 66-52.
Leonard and the Buffs are making a push in the NIT.  From:
With attention turning to the second round, the ladies hit the road for Brookings, SD and a tilt with South Dakota State.  Much tighter than the affair with UNLV, the action on Sunday went back and forth.  First, SDSU jumped out to an eight-point lead after the opening quarter, only to see CU respond in the second to cut the halftime advantage to just a single point.  After the break, it was Colorado's turn to jump out to a big lead, playing +9 over the next ten minutes.  That too was answered by the Jackrabbits, with the home squad coming back from a full 13-points down in the final frame to force overtime.  The Buffs wouldn't fold, though, and they dominated the added period to earn an 81-75 win.  Again, it was the KenLen show, with the sophomore covering up for the absence of Robinson (out with an injury, termed day-to-day) with 29 points on 19 shots.

It's clear that this program has some bright days ahead of it, and this postseason run may be the start of the push.  Next up: a visit to Iowa to play the Hawkeyes on Thursday afternoon.  If the Buffs can win there, they might just earn themselves a conference play rematch with Pac-12 foe Washington State in the NIT Quarterfinals.

Happy Tuesday!

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