The Buffs seemed to take five steps forward this week, but four steps back at the exact same time. While Colorado did earn their very first road win of the season after beating the USC Trojans in triple overtime, they did so in awkward and error filled fashion. They then went to Pauley Pavillon where CU let another game slip out of their hands to remain winless on the road versus UCLA. Just when it seemed CU was getting things together, they gave us reasons to doubt them once more. Still for as many things the Buffs did poorly this week, there were areas of growth for Colorado too.
The USC Recap: The best way to summarize this game is simply: Dustin Thomas. Fouls. Katin Reinhardt. More fouls. Askia Booker. Even more fouls. Askia Booker. First road victory. (So, can I be done? Okay okay, I'll give a little more.) Thomas led the Buffs out of the gate with nine of CU's first 14 points. However, foul trouble prevented him from making more of an impact as the game went on. Then, the Buffs seemed to shut down and let USC build a ten point lead behind more fouls and some three pointers. Yet, Colorado clawed their way back to only trail 37-38 at halftime. Coming out of intermission, Booker put the team on his back and single handedly led the Buffaloes on a second half stampede to reclaim the lead. With 8:26 the Buffs led 61-50. Then, for the remaining eight minutes CU went brain neutral and couldn't hold off a Trojan comeback. Katin Reinhardt and his plethora of threes brought back USC from the brink of a loss to send the game into overtime. Through two overtimes neither team could put the other away. But by the third overtime, Ski decided it was time for the game to end, as the drove the final stake through the heart of USC with his step back jumper with 37 seconds remaining to put Colorado up 95-92. CU won by a final score of 98-94.
The UCLA Recap: The Buffs began the game hot behind some unlikely faces, Xavier Talton and Tre'Shaun Fletcher. The two provided the much needed offensive spark to keeps Colorado in the game against the red hot Bruins. However, when UCLA looked to be too much for Fletcher and Talton, as the Bruins looked to go on a big run Wesley Gordon stepped up and gave the Buffs that extra push to give CU a 21-20 lead with 4:41 to play in the half. However, CU wasn't able to hang on to it, and ended up trailing 23-27 at the half. Just as Askia Booker stepped up in the USC game, a new point guard stepped up in the second half of UCLA game. There was only one problem, it was Norman Powell. The Bruins' point guard torched the Buffaloes in the second half, shredding the Buffs defense and easily finishing at the basket whenever he wanted too. Even when he missed, he got his own rebounds and would score on second chance opportunities. When all was said and done, Powell had 22 points, five rebounds, four assists, and five steals. The Buffs lost a crucial road game, 59-72.
What Went Wrong: First off, I enjoy this new format much better. It gives me the chance to get out all of my negative thoughts, so I can end with some positive and lighter notes. The Buffs biggest struggle this week was the incredible number of turnovers they piled up against USC and UCLA. They combined on the week to give their opponents 37 more opportunities to score. Thankfully it was USC and UCLA, not Arizona and Utah. It appeared Colorado forced passes that were not there whatsoever. They just passed it because it was where the ball was "supposed to go" but not actually where it needed to go. Plus, CU got careless at times, trying behind the back or no look passes, which almost always resulted in a turnover. Sure, the behind the back pass is flashy and impressive, but for how little it works, it actually does more damage than good. The Buffs need to fix this problem immediately. This wasn't a problem earlier in the season, and this is not an issue Colorado can afford to deal with at such a crucial time of their schedule, where every single game matter from a postseason standpoint. Next, the Buffaloes seemed to have a difficult time grabbing the ball on rebounds. The balls looked as if they were deflated or something. (Yes, I know technically this would make more sense if they were overinflated. But, the joke works this way.) One can laugh at that all they want, but the fact is Colorado gave up at least 10 rebounds between both games that turned out to be very crucial buckets. Tad needs to get CU some Stickum so they can get a better grip when rebounding. Moreover, the Buffs need to stop shooting themselves in the foot by fouling. CU hurt themselves terribly in the USC game by committing 32 personal fouls. They gave the Trojans way too many opportunities to hang in the game from the charity stripe. Thankfully, USC wasn't able to take advantage in the clutch. But at any rate, a good team will bury the Buffaloes if they foul that much. Lastly, COLORADO HAS TO FIGURE OUT WHO CAN SHOOT THREES ON THE OPPOSING TEAM AND COVER THEM! Sorry, it's been 11 weeks and CU still struggles to cover good three point shooters, something has to change. (Maybe all caps will help get my point across.)
What Went Right: Holy Ski Booker, Batman! Where did 43 points come from? Booker no question secured his position as one of the best offensive threats Colorado has ever had with his 43 point effort against USC last Thursday night. He sliced and diced his way to the rim and the foul line. His handles were lighting quick, and his moves were clean and crisp. Even better, the rest of the Buffs contributed in their win over the Trojans. It wasn't completely the Askia Booker show. Tory Miller and Xavier Johnson scored in double digits as well. Speaking of Tory Miller, it is wonderful to see the freshman come into his own this week. He looked confident in the paint and greatly improved his rebounding. Before, the ball would shoot out of his hand on rebounds, now Miller snatches it and holds it tightly. Hopefully Miller will continue to improve as time continues, since he will play an important role for the future of the Buffaloes. Next, Wesley Gordon has established himself as the new face of CU's big men. Gordon's strong play has almost allowed us to forget about Josh Scott, who is still tending to nagging back spasms. His takes to the hole are strong, his dunks are emphatic, and his defensive presence is essential for Colorado. Keep on doing you thing big man! Lastly, the Buffs made a big statement when they were able to pull of the win against USC despite all of their foul trouble. Colorado lost Xavier Johnson, Wesley Gordon, and Dustin Thomas to fouls against the Trojans. However, the bench stepped up and showed they can execute when called on. CU will need a strong bench as this season begins to wear on their starters.
Currently the Buffaloes are sitting at 11-10, and if they want any chance at all to play in even the NIT, they must get down to work. Colorado has nine games left, and they must make every single one of them count. As fans, nothing less than a positive attitude will do. We must all continue to support the Buffs. Let's hope the Buffs can finally put everything together. All in all, it seems most appropriate to call this week a wash, take the road win, and get ready for a dog fight against Utah.