After beating up on each other since the first day of October, the Colorado men's basketball team finally got a chance to test drive its new-look roster against a foe wearing different uniforms.
Monday night's exercise against Colorado Mines featured everything typical of an exhibition game — some encouraging signs, frequent stretches of ugly basketball, and a large cast of rookie players getting their first exposure to the bright lights of the Coors Events Center.
Though it took a while for the Buffaloes to assert themselves they finally were able to overcome the combined effects of rust and inexperience to pull away in the second half for a 78-52 victory. CU will have one more preseason trial in a closed scrimmage against SMU on Saturday before tipping off the 2017-18 season at home against Northern Colorado on Nov. 10.
"It was a little ugly out there I think would be a fair statement, especially in the first half," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "The second half some things started to come together. We wore them down a little bit. There wasn't much flow to the game tonight. But look, it's an exhibition. It's October 30th. I certainly wasn't expecting a masterpiece and we didn't get one.
"I like this team. I think we've got some pieces. But we've got a long way to go and a short time to get there."
Mines, the reigning champs in the Division II Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, gave the Buffs the workout Boyle was hoping for, trailing by three points at halftime and remaining within four points of CU in the early stages of the second half.
Sparked by a George King 3-pointer, the Buffs went on a 14-5 run to take control before steadily pulling away down the stretch.
While the final score certainly was reassuring — CU outscored the Orediggers 46-23 in the second half — the game was less about the scoreboard than getting a sense of the Buffs' early weaknesses and strengths.
Among the positives was that the Buffs shot 33-for-62 overall, though they struggled from 3-point range (5-for-17) and at the free throw line (7-for-13). The most glaring shortcoming for CU was that it outrebounded a Mines team that didn't come close to matching the sort of size and length the Buffs will face in Pac-12 Conference play by an almost negligible margin of 35-34. With 12 offensive rebounds, the Orediggers were even with the Buffs at 10-10 in second-chance points.
The Buffs recorded 19 assists on 33 field goals and finished with 14 turnovers, though 10 of those occurred after halftime.
"We've been beating up on each other for a while. That was nice to get out and play someone different," King said. "We didn't do a good enough job rebounding at all as a team. We need to do a better job. That starts with boxing out. The first half they were getting a lot of offensive rebounds and 12 as a team is way too many."
King was the only CU player to post double-figure points, scoring 13 on a 6-for-9 effort from the field. Tory Miller-Stewart went 4-for-5 with nine points, while freshman point guard McKinley Wright also scored nine points to go with four assists and two steals.
"We outrebounded them by one. I felt like that was a team we should have dominated on the boards," Boyle said. "They had 12 offensive rebounds. That can't happen against a team that's not as long, not as athletic, not as big."