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Colorado outlasts San Diego in home opener

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The Buffaloes won 71-53.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament - Arizona vs Colorado Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

It was always going to be a struggle, but the Colorado Buffaloes improved to 2-0 with a tougher-than-it-shows 71-53 win over the San Diego Toreros.

The Buffs are quite familiar with San Diego, the team formerly coached by CU assistant Bill Grier. The Toreros have beaten the Buffs the past two seasons, both in Boulder and in San Diego. Their style of basketball — slow pace, no mistakes and lockdown defense — is exactly the style that causes upsets. It’s difficult for better teams to get out of the mud and play clean basketball, but unlike in year’s past, the Buffs got clear and proved themselves the better team.

The first half was what we expected to see tonight. Colorado loves to attack off the perimeter, but they were caught up in San Diego’s muck. They were plagued by turnovers, misplays and generally sloppy basketball. (Daylen Kountz needs some work.) CU was still able to hit threes in the first half, but for whatever reason, those were the only shots they could make. As part of their meager 30-27 first half lead, the Buffs shot 31.5% on two-pointers (abysmal), 43% on free throws (horrid), and 38.5% on threes (very good).

San Diego hung around for a bit longer in the second half, but the Buffs were able to break free because of their aggressiveness. They attacked the rim, drew fouls, and made the most of their open looks. Lucas Siewert made some big shots, showcasing his value as a stretch forward who does the most while playing within himself. D’Shawn Schwartz scored 13 in the second half, the second game in a row in which he’s popped off with his shot-making ability. Combine those buckets with marvelous team defense and Colorado was able to coast to an 18-point win over an underrated foe.

Despite McKinley Wright having a poor shooting performance — he still finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, because he’s absurd — the Buffs were able to get points because they have an arsenal of offensive weapons. It’s a great sign for the future that Tad Boyle can call on six different options to carry the scoring burden depending on the night. Tonight that was Siewert and Schwartz, and maybe next game that will be Tyler Bey (another 14-pt., 10-reb., 3-block game) or Evan Battey (struggling again with foul trouble).

Struggling with San Diego was expected, so it was encouraging to see this team adjust and shine through the muck. Colorado next plays UC-Irvine on Monday, which should be a real test against an Anteaters squad that won 31 games and made the NCAA Tournament last year.