What went right: The Buffs turned the game around with a 19-2 run before halftime.
What went wrong: In a recurring theme, the Buffs committed 15 turnovers and averaged 15.7 during the three games in Hawaii.
Star of the game: Daylen Kountz. The freshman guard from Denver East enjoyed the best game of his young CU career, going 4-for-4 from the floor with a pair of 3-pointers before finishing with a season-best 12 points.
What's next: The Buffs will go home for a few days before beginning preparations for the Pac-12 Conference opener Jan. 3 at Arizona.
It would be easy to dismiss the sluggish and often ugly start put together by the Colorado men's basketball team Tuesday morning as a result of the early wake-up call for an 8 a.m. tipoff local time in Hawaii, if not for the fact that it looked all too similar to the lackluster efforts the Buffaloes turned in during their first two games at the Diamond Head Classic.
This time, however, the Buffs got their act together in time to avert a third consecutive disaster in Honolulu, avoiding last-place in the tournament by posting a 68-53 victory against Charlotte.
After losses against Indiana State and host Hawaii, the Buffs return to the mainland with a 9-3 record and much work to do before embarking on the Pac-12 Conference schedule.
Charlotte entered the contest with a 3-7 mark but appeared ready to hand the Buffs another frustrating and head-scratching loss after taking a 24-16 lead with 5 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the first half.
From there, though, CU turned it around in a hurry, scoring 14 consecutive points in a game-changing 19-2 run to close the first half. Senior Namon Wright scored eight points during that burst, and he helped the Buffs take advantage of a fortuitous situation in the waning moments of the opening half.
With only 0.9 seconds on the clock, the Buffs' Evan Battey was fouled on an offensive rebound attempt. First-year Charlotte coach Ron Sanchez, who previously took umbrage at a couple of video review situations earlier in the half, was assessed two technical fouls in quick succession and was ejected from the game. With less than a second remaining Wright made 3 of 4 technical free throws before Battey connected on both free throws from the original foul, giving CU a 35-26 lead at the break.
CU kept the foot on the gas in the second half, eventually taking a 21-point lead with 8:50 remaining. The Buffs executed far more efficiently than during their previous two losses, with point guard McKinley Wright finding teammates for open corner jump shots on three consecutive inbounds plays from beneath the CU basket early in the second half.
Junior forward Lucas Siewert went 3-for-5 on 3-pointers and finished with a team-leading 17 points, just one point shy of matching his career-high. Freshman guard Daylen Kountz from Denver East enjoyed the best game of his young career, coming off the bench to go 4-for-4 with a season-best 12 points. Namon Wright scored 10 points and went 6-for-8 at the free throw line to pace the Buffs' 13-for-16 effort on free throws — a stark improvement from the 28-for-43 mark (.651) at the line CU put together in the losses against Indiana State and Hawaii.
McKinley Wright, CU's leading scorer, went 1-for-6 from the floor and posted a season-low two points, but he finished with five rebounds and five assists.
For the second consecutive game, the Buffs played without backup guard Deleon Brown, who was in uniform but remained on the bench. The reason for Brown's benching remained undisclosed by CU personnel...After allowing Indiana State and Hawaii to go a combined 18-for-46 on 3-pointers, the Buffs held Charlotte to a 1-for-16 mark...Tuesday's game was just the second contest held on Christmas in the 117-year history of the CU program. The Buffs also played on Christmas in 2014 in their previous appearance in the Diamond Head Classic...The Buffs will be released to go home for a few days before reconvening over the weekend to begin preparations for the start of the Pac-12 Conference schedule.
Colorado 68, Charlotte 53
At Diamond Head Classic
Gatling 1-7 0-0 3, M. Wright 1-6 0-0 2, Siewert 6-13 2-2 17, Bey 4-5 0-0 8, Schwartz 4-8 0-0 9, Battey 1-3 3-4 5, Kountz 4-4 2-2 12, N. Wright 2-5 6-8 10, Parquet 1-2 0-0 2, Strating 0-0 0-0 0. Total 24-53 13-16 68.
McGill 2-5 1-2 5, Davis 7-15 10-11 25, Martin 3-4 0-1 6, Supica 5-6 1-1 11, Younger 1-10 3-3 5, Haslem 0-0 0-0 0, Blight 0-2 0-0 0, Mangum 0-0 1-2 1, Kitoko 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 18-45 16-20 53.
Halftime — Colorado 35, Charlotte 26. 3-point field goals — Colorado 7-20 (Siewert 3-5, M. Wright 0-3, Schwartz 1-3, Gatling 1-3, Kountz 2-2, N. Wright 0-2, Battey 0-1, Parquet 0-1); Charlotte 1-6 (McGill 0-2, Davis 1-4, Martin 0-1, Younger 0-4, Blight 0-2, Kitoko 0-3). Rebounds — Colorado 32 (Bey 6); Charlotte 25 (Younger 5). Assists — Colorado 15 (M. Wright 5); Charlotte 6 (Supica 2). Total fouls — Colorado 17, Charlotte 14. Technical fouls — Charlotte bench 2.