Colorado delivered in their opening game against the Drexel Dragons Friday night at home. After an uneasy start, the Buffs settled into their flow offensively and locked down on defense to earn a nice win. CU played a strong game for the most part, leaving the team with a performance to build off. However, the Buffs did show areas of needed improvement. It was a solid start to the season.
The Recap: The Buffs opened up the game with an unusual starting line up of Xavier Talton, Jaron Hopkins, Tre'Shaun Fletcher, Dustin Thomas, and Josh Scott. Yet, it proved to be an effective combination, giving the Buffs a quick eight point lead. Then Boyle chose to get tricky, subbing out all five starters for Booker, Stalzer, Johnson, Gordon, and rookie Tory Miller. What came next, can only be described as the most clustered and disoriented four minutes of CU basketball played in the Coors Event Center since Arizona last visited. The new five on the floor just seemed to force everything, which ended in too many sloppy turnovers. Scott checked back into the game, but not after Drexel cut the lead to four points. After that, the teams traded buckets until the end of the half. The best moment of the first half came when Askia Booker grabbed a rebound and zipped a full court pass to a streaking Josh Scott for an emphatic dunk to reenergize the Buffs as well and the crowd. The Buffaloess went into halftime up 33-29. Coming out of halftime, the Buffs pushed the floor with the same five that started the game. Once again the five gelled quite nicely to put the Buffs up double digits on the Dragons. Thankfully, the subs managed to maintain the double digit lead. Then after some of terrible officiating, and a Ben Mills sighting, Drexel ran out of gas. Scott, once again, came back into the game to secure a double double and add to his impressive stat line. Once Scott hit a three pointer and proceeded to celebrate with a Daniel Bryan-esque "Yes", the game was unofficially over. At that point, the Buffs led 62-44 with 3:19 to play and won by a final score of 65-48.
What Went Right: The most noticeable improvement from last year was the actual flow of the offense. At least with the starters, the Buffs managed to push the floor, but at the same time not rush their offense. If the Buffs can maintain that balance this season, then CU has potential to do extremely well. The Buffs also, for the most part, took high percentage shots from the floor. Next, CU's on ball defense was incredible to watch. Regardless of who had the ball on Drexel, the Buffs played intense on ball defense the full length of the floor. CU fought over screens considerably well, which put a damper on Drexel's offense. Lastly, the Buffs improved their free throw shooting from previous year, especially with the big men. Thomas, Scott, and Gordon shot a combined 10-13 from the charity stripe. Overall, the Buffs demonstrated significant improvement many areas.
What Went Wrong: Two old problem still haunt the Buffs though. CU struggled to guard the three point shot, and play consistent off ball defense. Drexel cut into Colorado's early lead with several three pointers. The Dragons actually hit six shots from behind the arc in the first half. Thankfully the altitude hurt them in the second half, as they went 7-29 from deep overall. Still, allowing 29 attempts from deep is unacceptable if the Buffs want to excel this season. Contributing to this is the Buffs inconsistent off ball defense. While CU locked down their men on the ball, once their match up passed the ball, the Buffs were caught standing up on defense and even losing their men in some cases. Again, this is unacceptable if the Buffs want to perform well. A better team like Arizona or Utah will eat the Buffs alive if CU brings this lackluster defense. Lastly, Booker must work on taking better shots. He cannot continue to go 2-14 from the field. However since he was sick this past week and only practiced once, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt this time.
Player of the Week: Josh Scott is without question the player of the game. He notched his first double double of the season, in the very first game of the season, by putting up 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He also added three blocks. Scott impressed in the post, showing he could finish in all sorts of ways. He made several shots over both shoulders, backed his man down to get easy buckets with great strength, and showed his touch by fading away a few times. Scott reminded all of the NCAA that he is, indeed, one of the best big men in college basketball with his performance.
The Buffs showed that they have made great strides in many areas in this off season, but not as great in others. Still, CU has room to improve and all of their problems can be easily addressed. If Colorado can patch the holes and continue to grow on their already strong base, the Buffs will be a formidable team very soon.