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Colorado loses to Southern Illinois in Paradise Jam

Colorado’s 19-point first half doomed them.

NCAA Basketball: California at Colorado Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

In what will hopefully be their worst loss of the 2021-22 season, the Colorado Buffaloes lost to the Southern Illinois Salukis, 67-63, in the Paradise Jam opener.

After starting off with an early 11-1 lead in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Buffs scored a total of 8 points between the U16 timeout and halftime — yes, one point every two minutes of basketball.

The main culprit of that offensive futility is that both Evan Battey and Jabari Walker picked up two fouls each by the 10-minute mark. Not only are both players prone to foul trouble — Battey because he’s too big for most guys to handle, Walker because he’s a wild boy — but the Buffs are lacking frontcourt depth behind them.

Even without those guys, this should be a functioning offense. Instead, everyone settled for jumpers instead of getting into the paint for layups or free throws. This has been a strange first half trend this season: they take whatever jump shots the defense concedes, then at halftime they are reminded to attack the paint.

The Buffs figured out that side of the ball, as they scored 44 second half on a bevy of layups (22 points in the paint) and free throws (7/12 from the line). It was nice to have Battey throwing people around without a tight whistle, while Walker and Tristan da Silva found crevices to attack. Those three combined for 36 points in the second period.

As they made their comeback, however, the Salukis made just about everything they threw at the rim. They wanted layups, free throws and threes, and little else. They hit 7 of 12 three-point attempts in the second half, then pulled away with timely offensive rebounds and clutch free throw shooting.

This is a disappointing loss for the Buffs. At least once per season, no matter how good their team is, they have a weird non-conference game and pick up a damaging loss. It hurts the ole resume, but is usually a reminder to dial up the intensity. It’s also a reminder that this team is very young and will have games like this more often than anyone would like.

Next up is a matchup with the Duquesne Dukes on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. The Buffs are in the consolation bracket of the Paradise Jam, so it’s unlikely we see the Colorado State Rams unless they also underperform.