Coming off the most disappointing double-digit win in memory, the Buffs were poised to get back on track on the road against the always tough Air Force Falcons. Despite their usual struggles, the Buffs came out on top 75-68 and improve their record to 9-3.
The Buffs got off to a slow start, as they tend to do in road games — or in games in general. Littered with turnovers and head-scratching plays all over, Colorado found themselves in an early deficit against the Falcons. In this bout of ineptitude, the Buffs showed that, despite them being the oldest team in the nation, they don’t quite know how to attack a zone defense or how to handle the ball against such. As usual, this will be a problem the Buffs will have to address as the season progresses.
Around the midway point in the first half, the Buffs’ offense gained footing on offense and were able to score a few buckets down the stretch to take a 27-22 halftime lead. They still had more turnovers (12) in the first half than they did made shots (10), but their offense looked somewhat promising, as they shot 56% from the field with most of those makes coming off assists.
Air Force stormed back after halftime and went on a 12-5 run to take a 34-32 lead. Air Force hit some shots in this run, but it was only possible because whatever offense the Buffs thought they had was shot down from the sky and crashed into the San Juan Mountains.
Derrick White helped the Buffs get back into it with a huge three-pointer. Colorado then went on their own run to take back the lead. From there, the two teams fought each other, the clock, the rim and, most notably, whistles. The Buffs are highly experienced in these slogs, so they were able to beat the Falcons despite missing nearly every free throw they attempted in the final stretch.
Colorado finished the game with impressive offensive numbers even though the eye test suggests otherwise. The Buffs shot 27-50 (54%) from the field, 10-24 (42%) from three, and had 18 assists, the most they’ve had since the season opener. Xavier Johnson (14 points, 6 rebounds) and George King (13 points, 9 rebounds) were both solid tonight, as was Derrick White (12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists), per usual. Off the bench, Deleon Brown (10 points and 4 assists) shined with his mature offensive skillset and heady defense.
All those players were terrific, but the unsung hero of the night was Wesley Gordon. Gordon was able to capitalize on Air Force’s lack of size and dominate in multiple areas. Patrolling the paint, Gordon had 5 blocks (a career high) and affected countless other shots. After their inevitable misses, he secured the boards with 9 rebounds. On offense, Gordon had 10 points on 4-5 shooting to go with 3 assists. Such well-rounded games for Gordon may be the new norm.
Also of note, Dominique Collier made his comeback tonight with 9 points on 3-6 three-point shooting. Collier played the first two games of the season before missing the next nine with a foot injury. Presumably, he will be the starting point guard when he’s fully healthy, which should shore up Colorado’s problems with perimeter defense and consistent outside shooting.
Next up for the Buffs is a home game against Eastern Washington on Thursday, December 22. The game will begin at 6:30 (MST) and will be available on Pac-12 Networks.