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Colorado defeats Brown, finishes 5th in Paradise Jam

The Buffs buckled down and won, 54-52.

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

The Colorado Buffaloes finished the Paradise Jam with two wins (out of three) and a bunch of things to work on back home.

After starting poorly in their loss to Southern Illinois and their comeback win over Duquesne, Colorado found themselves in another first half deficit after 20 minutes of disjointed basketball. This team returns two starters from last season, Evan Battey and Eli Parquet, and they were the 4th and 5th scoring options in the starting lineup. Everyone else, besides the mercurial Jabari Walker, is getting their first taste of regular minutes. None of these struggles should be a surprise.

This team is figuring out what they want to do and how to do that. They mostly have the first part down — attack the basket on every possession — but they’re sloppy with the ball and don’t have the shooting to open up those crowded passing and driving lanes. They have far too many possessions that are aimless at best. Players who should know better end up launching quick trigger jumpers instead of working the ball for a better shot.

All that said, the Buffs looked much better in the second half. Though they had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio — something to watch as they adapt to life after McKinley — they were much more decisive with the ball. Walker and Tristan da Silva were aggressive getting to the rim, then Keeshawn Barthelemy’s layup gave CU their first lead since the first minute of the game. (I would love to see him be more aggressive off the bounce.)

Even after the offense built a little momentum, the Buffs were in this game because of a great defensive half. Perhaps they got lucky with some bounces going their way, but CU made the Bears work for every shot, and everything was contested. Walker was tremendous, blocking two shots at the rim and stealing an in-bounds pass in the final minute. Eli Parquet shut down Brown’s final possession, sealing the win, 54-52.

While it wasn’t pretty and it won’t add to the postseason resume, the young Buffs enjoyed some great weather in the Virgin Islands are learning to play with each other in tight ball games. This is not dissimilar from the last time CU played in the Paradise Jam (in Lynchburg, Va.), when McKinley, D’Shawn and Tyler Bey started to figure things out.