It didn’t look pretty, but the Colorado Buffaloes handled the Iona Gaels on Sunday afternoon in an 85-68 win.
The 18th ranked Buffs struggled early with the Gaels’ full-court pressing defense. They looked rushed most of the time, panicked at others, and just generally had a difficult time settling into the game. Head coach Tobin Anderson — he of Fairleigh Dickinson fame — deserves some credit for having his guys play as physically as they did.
Colorado had a tough time against Richmond and Florida State earlier in the week, clearly bothered by the aggressiveness those teams play against. That’s part of why Tad Boyle schedules like he does — and why the Buffs look frustrating in the non-conference slate — because this team has a lot of things to figure out themselves.
The Buffs did eventually adjust. The guards took care of the ball, everyone got their shots, and the whole team emphasized getting inside the paint. KJ Simpson looked really comfortable in the second half, Cody Williams played great and threw down a filthy dunk, and Tristan da Silva topped 1,000 career points on an easy 6/7 shooting performance.
By the time Julian Hammond made one three-pointer and then assisted Luke O’Brien’s made three, the Buffs were up 19 points with 9 minutes to go. From there, they coasted. Guys like Assane Diop, RJ Smith and Bangot Dak got some run and the walk-ons finished the game.
This is exactly what you want from this sort of game. The Buffs were challenged with a tricky opponent, were threatened just enough that they forced into problem solving, and then handled things with room to spare.
Next up for the Buffs is a road trip to Ft. Collins to take on the Colorado State Rams. Niko Medved’s team is rolling right now. They just beat the doors off #8 Creighton and will be firmly in the Top 25 whenever the rankings come out. This will be the biggest test until January and a game the Buffs need everything to click if they’re going to win.