Following Saturday afternoon's letdown in Laramie, Colorado men's basketball needed nothing more than a confidence-boosting victory over the Air Force Falcons.
Thanks in large part to a 25-0 run midway through the second half, a feel-good win is exactly what the Buffaloes got Tuesday night, knocking off Air Force, 68-53.
"I was very pleased with our play in the first half, except the first four minutes," said head coach Tad Boyle. "From that point on I thought we played very, very well."
For the second time this season, Boyle's starting five raised eyebrows. Jaron Hopkins replaced Askia Booker, who sat the first half with an academic issue. Dustin Thomas took the place of Wesley Gordon, due to an "issue with tardiness". Gordon would enter the game shortly following the first media timeout. Booker, however, sat the entirety of the first half.
Colorado began the first half much the way they closed the second half against Wyoming. The Buffs turned the ball over on each of their first five trips down the floor against the Air Force matchup 2-3 zone.
A Coors Events Center crowd of 9,009 grew restless as they watched the Falcons establish an early 10-6 lead. That's when Dominique Collier checked in and Colorado went on a 25-0 run, all but squashing any designs Air Force had on an upset in Boulder.
Collier's impact on the Colorado offense was much more significant than his three points would indicate. The ball moved much more freely when the freshman from Denver was in. Collier's total of six assists doesn't quite do his performance justice. Many open looks came from swing passes after a Collier drive-and-dish.
"He makes the game simple, he makes simple plays," said Boyle. "The two assists he got to (Xavier) Talton for three were just an extra pass. (The ball) didn't stick. He's just got that feel that you can't coach. It's nice to have a guy out there like that."
Said Collier: "I'm not more athletic than everyone I'm going against, so I can't be trying to make the hard plays. I just make the easy play."
After taking a 37-15 lead into halftime, Booker and Gordon reclaimed their usual place in the starting lineup to start the second half. Less than two minutes into the half, Booker stole the ball on the perimeter and finished on the other end for his first points of the night. Later, Booker hit a step back three-pointer with the shot clock expiring. Booker finished with five points and a pair of assists in 12 minutes.
The second half saw the Buffs relapse back into many of the same frustrating tendencies they displayed on Saturday. Air Force outscored Colorado 38-31 in the final 20 minutes. CU turned the ball over eight times in the second half.
"One of the things we talked about at halftime was winning the second half. We didn't do that. So, we have some things we've got to get better at," said Boyle.
Josh Scott finished with 13 points - 11 of which came in the second half. Xavier Johnson scored a game-high 15 points and added a game-high nine rebounds.
Colorado returns to the Coors Events Center hardwood on Sunday to face Lipscomb.