If Tad Boyle and the Colorado Buffaloes didn't get everyone's attention last Saturday, they have it now. Fresh off a dominant win over the #8 Missouri Tigers this past weekend, the Buffs defeated the #20 Kansas State Wildcats 74-66 on the road in front of a sold out house. Colorado has never beaten ranked opponents back to back, has not beated a ranked team on the road since 1997 and over the past few years, have not fared well against any of the the Big 12 teams on the road, ranked or unranked.
Boyle and company is certainly getting things done. Wednesday's win is the Colorado's sixth straight and 11 of 12 to bring their overal record to 13-4 and 2-0 in conference. In Colorado's final year in the Big 12, they certainly weren't dealt the easiest of starts to conference play. CU has been dominated by Missouri the past few years (last year, they lost both games against the Tigers by a combined 47 points) and Kansas State was a top five team preseason, expected to win the Big 12. No one expected to come out of this stretch 2-0.
That's just what they did.
Missouri's win was certainly impressive but many probably chalked it up to a great performance by a great player in Alec Burks. Burks, the team's leading scorer and future NBA player, scored 36 against the Tigers carrying the Buffs on his back to victory.
What was more impressive about Wednesday's win against Kansas State on the road was Burks didn't play great. Cory Higgins didn't set the world on fire. The Buffs won without their two best players scoring a ton of points and taking over the game...that's a great sign. Yes, Burks certainly made some crucial shots down the stretch showing no Wildcat could stop him getting to the hole. But overall, Burks 12 points came on making 4-15 shots, well below his usual efficient play. Cory Higgins only took four shots from the field and had nine points.
Bottom line, Colorado won as a team tonight and won because they are making a commitment on the boards and the defensive end of the floor.
Can't say enough about Levi Knutson, Andre Roberson and Marcus Relphorde. Knutson continues to be the surprise player of the year for the Buffs. Coming into the game Knutson has averaged 11.5 points per game shooting over 50% from both the field and three point line. Not bad for a player who came into the season averaging under four points a game for his career. But the senior has turned the corner under Tad Boyle. Knutson led the Buffs with 20 points, shooting 7-10 from the field and 6-8 from behind the arc. Just when Kansas State was looking to make a run, Knutson would hit a big three to stop the run.
Andre Roberson continues to show he has the potential to be a special player. One of the reasons the Buffs have improved in the rebounding category this year and outrebounded Kansas State Wednesday was due to Roberson. The 6-7 true freshman led the team with 9 rebounds, scored nine points and was constantly around the ball making plays. He hit a big three pointer down the stretch as well.
Marcus Relphorde is very solid on both ends of the court. He didn't shoot particularly well from the field but on the defensive end, he is tough. He seems to be the stable force on the floor. He grabbed five rebounds and tallied four steals, providing results in all phases of the game.
Again, can't say enough about the rebounding, defensive performance and overall team effort. Colorado is very much improved from last year in all categories and it is paying dividends early. The effort is there and the players are being rewarded with wins.
Big victory for the program. Go Buffs!