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Buffaloes survive Seattle’s upset bid

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It was ugly, but Colorado won 67-55.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado tried their hardest to lose to the Seattle Redhawks, but great defense and just enough offense saw the Buffs escape with a 67-55 victory.

To start off the Legends Classic, the Buffs struggled with shooting and turnovers, as they have many times before. In the first 10 minutes alone, they had four made shots and five turnovers; that’s a recipe for disaster, à la the turnoverpalooza in Corvallis a season ago. The first half ended with them shooting 10-29 from the field, 0-8 from three and 9 turnovers.

At the same time as their offensive struggles, the Buffs employed both a full-court press and a swarming zone defense, which we may see throughout the season with Colorado’s quickness across the floor. That defense, as frenetic as it looked, yielded just as many key stops as it allowed wide open dunks to 7’3 (!) Aaron Menzies. However, the Redhawks offense soon joined the Buffs’ in the graveyard as their shots stopping falling thanks to the pressure of that defense. They shot just 11-31 from the field and 3-14 from deep. With all those missed shots, Wesley Gordon grabbed 10 rebounds in the first half alone. He could post Robersonian rebounding numbers without Josh Scott competing on the boards.

At around the 10-minute mark, Thomas Akyazili’s layup and skying rebound (over a 6’10 forward) got the crowd going, and Tory Miller’s and-1 got them roaring. This series of plays, combined with great team defense, looked like it would spark the blowout the game was supposed to be, but ‘twas not to be.

These struggles continued throughout the first half, as the Buffs trailed for the majority of the game while their offense relied on Derrick White’s shot-creating sorcery to create shots out of thin air. He had 9 in the half and 15 in the game on 5-10 shooting.

Surrounding White, the Buffs had a gazillion open threes and shots at the rim – those shots signify an otherwise healthy offense – but couldn’t convert to save their lives. It seems like a good time to remind that the Buffs were dead last in the Pac-12 in 2-point field goal percentage, even with Josh Scott, and their offense stalled whenever turnovers and/or threes weren’t falling. These offensive struggles are worrisome, but not alarming. They need Derrick White to bail them out time to time (like Scott and Dinwiddie did) but they should be solid.

By this formula of offensive stagnation and good enough defense, the Buffs headed to halftime with a 31-31 tie. Halftime ended up being the most entertaining part of the game, what with the little kids having a dunk contest on a mini hoop and there being an absence of Colorado offense to watch.

The second half saw the Buffs play brilliant defense to pick up a lackluster offense. They grabbed the lead immediately after the break, built their lead to ten, and spent the rest of the game holding on.

If there was any bright spot to the offense, Derrick White sure looks good. Also, Wesley Gordon made 7-8 free throws. That’s pretty much it, until a few big shots late in the game.

Meanwhile, Gordon, White and company built an impenetrable defense protected by steals and blocks, and finally secured by Gordon and his preposterous rebounding (he had 14). With all the question marks surrounding the Buffs’ defense, this game offered a glimpse into their chaos-inducing future.

The Buffs looked content to pull out a no-it’s-fine-really-you-can-win-this-game kind of performance, but Josh Fortune provided that last offensive spark. On back to back possessions, Fortune hit wide open three-pointers from the corners to give CU a 61-53 lead with 2:30 to play. As the following minutes ticked off ever so slowly, the Buffs built and extended the lead to reflect a final score that wasn’t as close as the game truly was. The buzzer finally sounded with the Buffs on top, 67-56. As a team, they shot 19-53 (36%) and had 19 turnovers.

A win is a win is a win, but this was one of the least inspiring victories in recent memory. The defense won the game when the offense tried to lose it, but hey, at least they played great defense. Hopefully they can combine their offense from Friday with their defense tonight for their Thursday night game against Louisiana Monroe.