Every half from here on out is must-win for the Colorado Buffaloes. They came into their Wednesday night matchup at Washington 0-5 and in need of a crucial road win to jumpstart any potential comeback to their season.
The one half of basketball Colorado played was arguably their best of the season. They started out hot, finished on a run, and played surprisingly well in between. Such consistent play is a rarity for the Buffs and it should be celebrated.
Fueling this wonderful, watchable offense was an emphasis by the Buffs on shooting and spacing. With passing and cutting that made the eyes dance a beautiful score, Colorado was able to waltz through the porous Washington defense to get easy shots at the rim and create open shots from deep. Unlike most of the time they create these opportunities, those shots were converted this time around.
Now, Washington isn’t exactly known for their defense — especially without center Malik Dime — so it wasn’t the biggest surprise Colorado was able to put up some points. The Huskies can’t defend, but they can usually score. Colorado was able to use Washington’s deficiencies — shooting from players other than Markelle Fultz, passing from players other than Markelle Fultz, etc. — to their advantage. CU did this with with a zone defense that hounded Fultz and forced other Huskies to create shots. Fultz is an immortal demigod born to roam the world embarassing people in basketball, so Colorado did a decent job defending him, all things considered. (He finished with only 37 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists — not his best performance.)
This half was so good, we need a roll call to give everyone the credit they deserve.
Dominique Collier, in his first start of the season, brought his excellent marksmanship to an offense needing everything they could get. He put CU on the board with a corner three-pointer and later drilled his only other shot attempt (also a three). He may not be the most dynamic scorer on CU, but his shooting and passing will be vital for the Buffs’ offense as Pac-12 play progresses. If healthy, he should be an unquestioned starter from here on out.
George King followed up his excellent game against USC with similar scoring and rebounding. King isn’t nearly as consistent of a shooter as Collier, but when he’s on, he’s lethal. Like Collier, he made a pair of threes (on three attempts) to help Colorado open up the Washington defense. He also contributed on defense and on the glass with inspired play.
Josh Fortune understandably lost his starting role, but, being the class act he is, has reinvented himself as a high-energy bench player who’s capable of shooting and creating with and without the ball. It’s been a sample of two games, yes, but he’s shown that he can be an invaluable 6th man with a versatile yet flawed skillset that seemed redundant beside Derrick White.
Xavier Johnson and Derrick were both fantastic, as they usually are. We’ll have an in-depth article about that pair coming soon, so we’ll save the analysis for then.
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There was also a second half and an overtime period, but those didn’t actually happen, not in this reality anyway. In the other reality, the one weary and cold, scared and alone, Colorado lost 85-83 and are now 0-6 in the Pac-12. Here’s the final box score from that game that didn’t actually happen:
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Next up for the Buffs is Washington State on Saturday, January 21st. That game will air on Pac-12 Networks (of course) at 2pm (of course). Wazzu is terrible at basketball, so hopefully CU will finally get a conference win.