When you’re tuning in for non-conference November college basketball, all you can really hope for is a watchable game. And for Buffs fans, at the very least, that’s (mostly) what they got during Wednesday night’s 88-83 loss in Fort Collins.
A slow start – a slow first half, really – doomed the Buffs in their first Rocky Mountain Rivalry loss since 2017. After winning the first four games of the year, CU has now dropped two of their last three by a combined 11 points. If it felt to you like the Buffs played from behind for basically the entire game, that’s only because that’s exactly what happened: their 10-9 lead with 13 minutes left in the first half was the last time they were ahead all night.
Still, they made more than a few inspired runs in the second half, and if it wasn’t for some clutch CSU shooting at the end – the Rams hit six of their last eight shots, including their last four – things probably would have gotten a little more chaotic.
The Bad News
The Buffs struggled to hold onto the ball. They were averaging 14 turnovers a game heading into Wednesday night, and were very much up to the challenge apparently, ending the game with 15. There’s probably some sort of correlation between a sold out Moby Arena and the five CU turnovers within the first 10 minutes, or starting 0-6 from the field, but who knows. Julian Hammond had a team-high five of his own, while KJ Simpson, Cody Williams, and Tristan Da Silva each had two.
It was just an ugly first half all around. In 30 possessions, they had nine turnovers and 26 points while shooting under 40% from the floor. KJ Simpson more or less carried them through that, scoring 10 while playing all but four minutes. If you’re already a firm believer in the Buffs-Go-As-Cody-Williams-Goes theory, tonight was huge for you: Williams had zero points (0-3), zero rebounds, and zero assists at halftime. This early in the season, you can probably get away with one half of sloppy ball handling, or bad shooting, but it’s hard to get away with both.
The Good News
There are two halves! And man, the Buffs were awfully fun during the second one.
Almost immediately, Cody Williams looked like a totally different player. He had eight points within the first five minutes and ended up with 21 (8-9 from the field, 4-4 from the FT line). There were major stretches where he looked like the best player on the floor, and he had more than a few moments that reminded you that he’s the highest-rated recruit in CU basketball history.
Not to be outdone, Simpson had 21 second half points of his own, 12 of which came from his perfect night (4-4) from behind the line; the last one he hit, to cut CSU’s lead to five with 28 seconds left, felt like the last real moment of the game where CU had a shot.
Ultimately, CSU’s depth won out. The Buffs had three guys in double figures, while the Rams had five – two of which came off the bench. CSU’s about as deep and experienced as a college basketball team gets, and Isiah Stevens is simply That Dude. Sometimes you lose to ranked teams on the road. It happens. Up next is a home game against Pepperdine this Sunday. Tipoff’s at 3.