It’s fitting that in this topsy-turvy season of everchanging expectations and growth, the Colorado Buffaloes would end the year with a brutal 78-66 loss to a far better team.
The Texas Longhorns came into this game with a mediocre 18-16 record, but they are supremely talented and would have made the NCAA Tournament if not for injuries and suspensions. It’s frustrating that CU no-showed, but a loss was likely, even considering CU had won 12 of their last 15 games. None of this is to be negative — it’s just that this team still has a lot to improve upon before they take the next step, particularly their focus on the road.
This game started with all the usual red flags: McKinley Wright didn’t look confident, Evan Battey got into early foul trouble, and Texas was getting whatever shot they wanted. Defensively, it was apparent that Dylan Osetkowski was too much at forward, Kerwin Roach was impossible to stay in front of, and the rest of the Longhorns simply refused to miss their open looks. They shot 7-13 from deep, powering a 44-point first half, the most CU has given up in a half since January at Washington.
It’s difficult to keep up with a team that can run down the floor and get whatever shot they want. It’s even more difficult when your two best players are absent. Wright and Tyler Bey have been superb this year and have ultra-bright futures (and they did play better in the second half), but when they combine for 4 points on 2-10 shooting, the Buffs have virtually no shot. D’Shawn Schwartz attempted to carry the team, but it didn’t matter because he was the only Buff who made more than one shot in the half.
At halftime, Texas had a 44-19 lead. At the final buzzer, Texas had a 78-66 lead. It just wasn’t CU’s night for whatever reasons. It probably didn’t help that CU had one day to rest and travel between their Monday win over Norfolk State and this game. Colorado shot 33% from the field and committed 14 turnovers, it’s worth mentioning, and their defense certainly looked fatigued.
The only real difference in the second half was, to be honest, Texas stopped trying and Colorado refused to go quietly. The Buffs hit some shots and played better defense, but it didn’t really matter because their second half wasn’t even that good and they had a 25-point deficit to overcome. The improvement was a show of better effort and focus, not necessarily a real comeback attempt. That should be commended! Colorado has shown terrific fight all year, and despite having an atrocious shooting game, they still fought because you never you know. (We knew.)
It’s going to be a critical offseason for the Buffaloes that starts now. The Buffs will still be young next season, but with Wright and Bey being upperclassmen, the expectations start now. They absolutely should make the NCAA Tournament next year, they just need to continue their growth and figure out how to play with consistent focus and intensity.