Boulder, CO —-After the Buffs opening night victory against Drake in which they scored their highest point total for their first game since 1990, all Tad Boyle could talk about was finding ways to get big man Lucas Siewert more involved in the offense. While he’s seen an expanded role, tonight was the game Buffs fans will look back on later in the season and say “that’s when we knew Lucas Siewert finally arrived.”
Behind 18 points and 10 rebounds from the big man from Brazil, and 13 second half points from McKinley Wright the Buffs were able to blow out the Portland Pilots late 93-69.
Both teams fed off the player who had the hot hand early on. Siewert scored twelve of the Buffs first fourteen points, while Josh McSwiggen had five quick points for the Pilots.
“I was hitting shots, and that got me going early,” Siewert said. “That got the team going, that got me going, and once their defense started to focus on me more other guys started to get going so that was good for us.”
Led by a timely straight away three and transition basket from Deleon Brown, Colorado went on a 13-2 run to build a double digit lead midway through the first half.
But Portland responded immediately with a 7-0 run on 4-for-4 shooting to cut the lead to 26-21. Through most of the first period and a half, anytime the Buffs seemingly built a comfortable lead, the Pilots would get just close enough to smell a lead of their own.
Later on CU went 2:31 without a point before a pair of free throws from Siewert gave them a two point lead. Timely shooting from the line by McKinley Wright (who went 4-for-4 from the strike down the stretch) gave the Buffs a 39-36 halftime lead. Colorado did a nice job spreading the wealth around as Gatling (6), Wright (7), and Battey (4) all made a mark in the scoring column. Gatling would finish the game with 11 points off the bench on an impressive 4-for-7 shooting.
However, Siewert led the way by a landslide scoring just under forty percent of the Buffs (15-of-39) first half points. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that he was knocking down shots from all over the floor - beyond the arc, in the post, pull-up jumpers. The diversity in Stewart’s shot selection put on display the number of skills in his game.
“He carried us in the first half offensively,” Boyle said. “He was the guy we went to, and we’ve got to understand what type of weapon Lucas is offensively. He’s such a tough matchup because he could shoot the three and his post moves are getting better by the day.”
In the second half, McKinley took over the scoring efforts, scoring 11 of the Buffs 17 points in the first 10:13 of the period. Colorado went on a 16-1 run in 5:34 to build a comfortable 67-52 lead and effectively put the game away.
“That’s a vintage McKinley Wright,” Boyle said without hesitation. “He just says ‘okay guys it’s time to get this train moving and the train starts moving,’ what I’d like to see is the train start moving from the jump - not like we’re going to go on a 16-1 run from the jet, but we’ve got to be ready mentally.”
Part of that is a direct result of playing looser and becoming more comfortable with the team around him.
“I think I’m starting to get back in my groove. Earlier in the year I think I was trying to force it, and not play the way I normally play. I’m getting more comfortable in just trusting my teammates and making sure they’re getting involved too.”
Although they struggled early on, the team came up clutch down the stretch. Five players finished the game in double digits, and CU had an excellent job playing a physical brand of basketball crashing the boards and out rebounding Portland 44-27.
It was an encouraging sign for Buffs fans as four out of five victories in the non conference portion of their schedule have come by double digits.
CU will play the basketball version of the Rocky Mountain Showdown when they take on the CSU Rams Saturday at 1 p.m. MT. It’ll be a grudge match of sorts for the Buffs who lost last year’s matchup 72-63 in a defensive battle.
As for what the team’s mentality is heading into that game, McKinley had few words for where the group is at.
“We’re ready for it,” he said with a smile “that’s all I’m going to say, it’s going to be fun Saturday.”