On Wednesday night, Colorado did everything they could to lose to rival Colorado State, and that they did. By way of offensive ineptitude and free throw mayhem, the Buffs lost 72-58 to the Rams. It wasn’t pretty.
The first half started and everyone in attendance suffered accordingly, or at least their eyes did. Colorado’s offense started as they have most games this season, missing open shots, throwing the ball away and playing good enough defense for people to have hope the offense could turn it around. The offense never did turn around, and that’s why we’re looking at a loss to Colorado State.
The first half started with an ill-advised stepback jumper from George King (early in the shot clock) and ended with a missed free throw from Tory Miller. That would be emblematic of the first half offense, but we’re missing a turnover somewhere, somehow.
In between those emblematic misses, Colorado shot 11-25 from the field (not bad!), 2-7 from three (not good!), 3-9 from the free throw line (terrible!) and committed 9 turnovers (catastrophic!) on their way to 27 halftime points. It’s tempting to say those missed shots came from good offense and they just missed, but nope. The misses they had were seldom in and out. Instead, it looked like the Buffs were trying their hardest to hit nothing but rim.
Missing from the offense was someone willing to step up into the lead role. This team doesn’t have an Alec Burks or Spencer Dinwiddie to rely on when nothing is working. We thought it would be Derrick White coming into the season, and it still might be, but he struggled tonight and looked tentative at times. It’s hard to say what would’ve happened had White not shot 5-15 from the floor with 4 turnovers, but anything would have been better than what we saw.
Fortunately, the Colorado defense kept the Buffs in the game by playing as well as they have this season. Even with no one shooting well, each and every player was able to stay focused on the defensive end. Their defensive rotations were intelligent, crisp and well-communicated. They were able to close out quickly on shooters, corral drives to the rim and boxed out to secure the boards to finish their defensive stops. Only until the Buffs ramped up the pressure late in the second half did the Buffs give up easy baskets. But even that can be blamed on the offense, since they were only playing with that pressure to create easy baskets on potential turnovers.
The second half was much of the same, but less polarized. The Colorado defense and rebounding was solid as ever, but played at nowhere near the same level as in the first half. The offense didn’t look good, but they didn’t look ghastly, which is a sizable improvement at the very least. This combination of play is usually enough for CU to gut out a win, but ‘twas not to be in this game.
The 3-9 free throw shooting in the first half looked anomalous, but it proved to a theme of the night. In the second half, the Buffs offense found open shots at the rim and crashed the boards for hoards of second chance opportunities, but the Rams were unafraid to play physical defense.
As Colorado State piled up fouls (they had 17 in the second half), Colorado piled up missed free throws. Just as the Buffs seemed poised to break out, they would be sent to the line and miss one or both shots. By end of the game, Colorado shot 17 of 31 from the charity stripe. Contrasting that, Colorado State shot an immaculate 19-21 from the line while Colorado did their fair share of fouling (they had 18 fouls in the second half). The polar performances from the line proved to be the difference in the game.
Next up for the Buffs is a road test against the Portland Pilots, which will air on THEW.tv at 8:00 on Saturday night, December 4. Hopefully, we’ll all be high off a Pac-12 Championship victory when that game rolls around.