CU men's basketball preview: Fort Hays State

MATCHUP: Fort Hays State Tigers (7-4) at Colorado Buffaloes (7-3).

GAME TIME: Saturday, noon, Coors Events Center.

BROADCAST: Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM; TV — Pac-12 Network.

COACHES: Fort Hays State — Mark Johnson, 16th season (311-142 at Fort Hays and overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 7th season (137-83, 193-149 overall).

LEADERS: Fort Hays State — Scoring: G Rob Davis, Sr., 24.0 ppg; Rebounding: F JaQuan Smith, Sr., 7.2 rpg; Assists: G Kyler Kinnamon, So., 3.2 apg. Colorado — Scoring: G Derrick White, Sr., 15.6 ppg; Rebounding: F Wesley Gordon, Sr., 8.5 rpg; Assists: White, 3.3 apg.

NOTABLE: Per NCAA Division II rules, this first meeting between the programs counts as an exhibition game for the visiting Tigers but is a regular nonconference contest for CU, though it does not count against the Buffs' RPI...This is the first of three games in six days for the Buffs, who visit Air Force on Monday and host Eastern Washington on Dec. 22. After that, CU will be idle until opening Pac-12 Conference play at Utah on Jan. 1...Fort Hays' Davis is shooting .561 (32-for-57) from 3-point range...For the second time this season CU's George King has posted consecutive double-doubles...The Buffs have shot just .276 (24-for-87) from 3-point range over the past four games...


Fort Hays features one native Coloardoan in Fort Collins' Lake Reed, a Poudre High School alum who is averaging 4.9 points off the bench.

His return from a season-robbing torn Achilles tendon has been a roundly successful one so far for Xavier Johnson.

However, through his first 10 games back with the Colorado Buffaloes men's basketball team, Johnson still is seeking to bring a consistent all-around game to the floor from one game to the next.

Of course, consistency has been a team-wide issue for the Buffs. Yet since an off-night during a loss against Colorado State a little more than two weeks ago, Johnson has shown signs of being a more dependable force. It's a trend he hopes to continue on Saturday as the Buffs host Division II Fort Hays State at the Coors Events Center (noon, Pac-12 Network).

Johnson said he was bothered by a nerve issues in his shooting arm when he went 1-for-7 with just six points against CSU. In the three games since he has averaged 18 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting .486 (17-for-35) from the floor. Johnson also has gone 6-for-12 on 3-pointers during that span.

"We just want to play our game plan at the end of the day," Johnson said. "We're just going to make sure we execute our X's and O's, and if we do that we should win. This is a game where if you mess up, you will get pulled."

In that spirit, CU head coach Tad Boyle promised he is "ready to substitute liberally" if the Buffs fail to respond properly against Fort Hays, which brings a 7-4 record and a dynamic scorer in senior guard Rob Davis to the Coors Events Center.

Davis is averaging a whopping 24 points per game and is shooting at a torrid pace, posting an overall field goal percentage of .580 with a .561 mark from 3-point range. Davis has topped the 30-point mark four times this season, including each of the Tigers' past two games.

"We've had guys come into this building and drop 40 on us, so we have to be ready for this guy," Boyle said. "Fort Hays has got great basketball tradition. Anyone that knows anything about college basketball knows Fort Hays State is a good Division II program. Well-coached, they've had really good players and teams in the past.

"Is it a game we should win? Absolutely. But it's a team that's going to come in here and fight. It's their Super Bowl and we have to be ready for that."

CU needs look no further than last year's home date against Division II Fort Lewis for a reminder of how such teams will always bring their A-game when given a chance to take on a Division I power. Fort Lewis only trailed the Buffs by just two points at halftime of that contest before CU finally pulled away in the second half.

CU guard Derrick White was on the other end of such matchups several times during his three seasons as a Division II All-American at UCCS, and he knows the Tigers will be amped for the opportunity Saturday afternoon.

"You're looking forward to that game and you kind of circle it. It's your opportunity to show you should be a D-1 player," White said. "They have nothing to lose, so you just go out free and playing your game. It's a dangerous team to play and we can't take them lightly."

Pat Rooney: or