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Buffaloes collapse at Stanford

The Buffs fall to 2-5 in Pac-12 play.

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In a classic “tale of two halves” game, the Colorado Buffaloes raced out to an early lead, but collapsed in the second. What looked like a crucial road win turned out to a demoralizing loss for the inconsistent Buffs.

To start the game, Stanford mixed and matched zone and man defense with high pressure on the perimeter. But as lanky and athletic as Stanford is, Colorado was able to cut through their defense with sharp passes and dribble penetration. Lucas Siewert, Tyler Bey and McKinley Wright all scored 8 in the half, and they did in a variety of ways: Siewert living in the mid-range and taking advantage of Josh Sharma sitting back at the rim, Bey by poaching near the rim and finishing everything, and Wright by zooming into the paint for floaters and pull-ups.

On the other end, Colorado sat back in a deep 2-3 zone. They focused on taking away Stanford’s path to the rim knowing they wouldn’t be able to effectively shoot over the top of it. Potential first round pick KZ Okpala, a 6’8 wing averaging 18.3 pints per game, was held scoreless in the half as Bey and company closed in on his slashing ability. It was a difficult time for mostly everyone on the Cardinal, except Oscar Da Silva, a 25% three-point shooter, catching fire behind the arc and scoring 13 in the half.

With Colorado locking down the paint on one end and easily getting inside on the other, it was easy to see why they had a 26-8 advantage in points in the paint. Considering the matchups, schemes and focus, it seemed Colorado was in position to win after taking the 37-31 halftime lead. But it all ended when I sent this tweet.

Things started to fall apart almost immediately into the second half. Stanford increased their physically and Colorado didn’t know how to handle it. The Cardinal just trucked their way to the rim, finished through fouls, and generally beat up the Buffs. Fun fact (it isn’t fun): Stanford ended up converting more and-1 layups (4) than CU made three pointers (3).

CU had previously made a living scoring inside, but suddenly Bey couldn’t finish, none of the other floaters fell, and CU embarked on a scoring drought. To make matters worse, Stanford was in foul trouble and CU refused to power it inside for easy points at the line. Maybe, just maybe, they would’ve avoided this collapse if CU had better shot selection and didn’t settle for in-betweeners all night.

As Stanford shot 72% from the floor while CU shot 36%, it’s easy to see how Stanford ended up outscoring CU 44-25 in the half for a 75-62 win.

Next up for the Buffs is a homestand against Oregon State on Thursday (7:00, Pac-12) and Oregon on Saturday (7:30, Pac-12). It’s certainly a series they can sweep, but OSU is dangerous and Oregon is always talented. CU will need to learn the lessons of this Bay Area trip and remain focused.