With Valentine’s Day only two days away, Colorado has all the defense they could ever need. In their Sunday night date with the Washington State Cougars (11-14), they had more than enough defense to get the 81-49 blowout win.
After a two-game absence, Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson returned to the Colorado lineup to play instrumental defensive roles against the consistently incredible Josh Hawkinson and the occasionally lethal Conor Clifford. Gordon and Johnson didn’t contribute much to the box score (they combined for 11 points), but they looked focused and ready to battle; their two games of rest certainly helped in that regard.
With Wazzu’s two big men on lockdown, CU’s perimeter defense — starring Derrick White, Dom Collier and Bryce Peters — was able to swarm the ball handlers and cause chaos all over the defensive side. That defense ruined Wazzu’s offense, as they forced 24 turnovers (including 12 steals) and allowed a meager 49 points on just 39% shooting.
Swallowed by sloppiness and lethargy early on, Colorado’s offense eventually emerged from the ashes of the hellish landscape that their defense razed to the ground. Led by Derrick White’s 23 points (9-11 shooting), the offense got out onto the break at seemingly every opportunity for tons of easy transition buckets. Colorado had an incredible 15 fast break points and an even better 34 points off turnovers.
For as fast as they were playing, the Buffs were surprisingly clean with the ball. They had only 11 turnovers, and most of those were dead-ball (e.g. traveling calls on Bryce Peters), not of the deadly live-ball variety. Even more so than their transition buckets and their 42 points in the paint, their ball security was their most encouraging offensive accomplishment.
Colorado’s offense in the half-court wasn’t the prettiest or most efficient we’ve seen from them this season, but it didn’t matter with Colorado’s quality of defense and transition offense. Sometimes your problems will cease to exist if you simply run from them. That’s a life lesson right there.
These defensive games aren’t the most beautiful sights to behold, but Tad Boyle & Co. should buy into this type of basketball for the rest of the season. If Colorado is to make a late-season run, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to continually drag their opponent down into the mud and beat them with their unparalleled experience in sloppy battles.
Next up for the Buffs is a road game against the Oregon State Beavers (4-22, 0-13). You can look at their miserable record and their horrendous early-season losses and assume this will be an easy victory for the Buffs. However, the Beavers have played better with every passing week and just this past week, they challenged USC and UCLA on the road. Colorado should win, but they’ll need to bring the same level of effort and focus as they had tonight. That game will air on Pac-12 Networks at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 16.