CU men’s basketball: Buffs wary of letdown against Nicholls, Hampton

Colorado coach Tad Boyle has guided the Buffs to an 8-1 start, but he has cautioned his team against looking past Nicholls and Hampton this weekend.
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Colorado coach Tad Boyle has guided the Buffs to an 8-1 start, but he has cautioned his team against looking past Nicholls and Hampton this weekend.

CU men’s basketball preview: Nicholls

MATCHUP: Nicholls Colonels (3-6) at Colorado Buffaloes (8-1).

GAME TIME: Friday, 7 p.m., Coors Events Center.

BROADCAST: Radio — 850 AM; TV — Pac-12 Networks.

COACHES: Nicholls — JP Piper, 12th season (134-226 at Nicholls and overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, sixth season (116-69, 172-135 overall).

LEADERS: Nicholls — Scoring: F Ja’Dante Frye, Jr.., 17.9 ppg; Rebounding: Frye, 6.4 rpg; Assists: G TJ Carpenter, Sr., 2.4 apg. Colorado — Scoring: F Josh Scott, Sr., 18.7 ppg; Rebounding: Scott, 9.8 rpg; Assists: G George King, So., and G Josh Fortune, Jr., 3.3 apg.

NOTABLE: Saturday’s contest against Hampton (7 p.m.) will air on 760 AM and on the Pac-12 Networks … CU has never played Nicholls or Hampton … These are the Buffs’ final home games until a Jan. 8 date against Utah … Hampton lost to Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year and returns two of its top three scorers in Reginald Johnson (18.7 ppg) and Quinton Chievous (16.5 ppg) … Nicholls is coming off a 44-point loss at No. 18 SMU on Wednesday.

Colorado basketball. That’s all head coach Tad Boyle wants to see.

In a week that has included a busy slate of final exams and the first injury concern of the season — all coming on the heels of two emotional victories — factors are colliding that could set up the streaking CU men’s basketball team for a letdown.

Particularly with a pair of unheralded opponents arriving at the Coors Events Center for the first two games of the Las Vegas Classic on back-to-back nights, a run that begins Friday night against Nicholls and concludes Saturday against Hampton.

Boyle is well aware of the potential pitfalls facing his team with marquee matchups against Penn State and, possibly, No. 18 SMU next week in Las Vegas. That’s why the simple directive of playing Colorado basketball is the priority of the weekend.

“Nicholls and Hampton, they’re both athletic teams,” Boyle said. “They’re both perimeter-oriented teams. Not that they don’t have good big guys. They do. But these first two games, what I’m concerned with is Colorado basketball. Am I concerned with Nicholls State? Absolutely. Am I concerned with Hampton? Absolutely.

“But we have to take care of one before we get to the other. And so it’s about taking care of our business and doing what we do well. If we do that, I think we’ll be OK. If we don’t … crazy things happen in college basketball. It’s more of a mental thing than a physical thing, getting these guys prepared.”

The Buffs could be without Tre’Shaun Fletcher this weekend after the junior suffered an injury during last weekend’s win against Brigham Young. Still, if the Buffs can repeat the average performance among the victories they have put together during an eight-game win streak, they should make quick work of both Nicholls and Hampton.

“We just have to stay humble and stay hungry,” junior guard Josh Fortune said. “Each game is a different game, and we just have to be ready for the next one.”

Nicholls was blasted by SMU on Wednesday night and brings a three-game losing streak to Boulder. While the Buffs are averaging a robust 84.8 points a game, a mark that puts them among the top 30 scoring clubs in the nation, Nicholls is averaging 66.3 points a game while shooting only .379 from the floor.

A quick start against the Colonels that might allow CU to rest starters late could come in handy a day later against Hampton, an NCAA tournament team a year ago that should present a far more formidable challenge. Hampton sports a 4-4 mark after a Thursday night loss against SMU and averages 75 points a game.

“There’s a fine line, a fine balance, of understanding what they’re going through but not letting them just come in and be sloppy,” Boyle said. “We’ve talked about this is going to be what it’s like when we get into tournament play. Certainly the Pac-12 tournament you have back-to-back-to-back games. The NCAA tournament, you’re going to have the two games in three days, and then you have a week off and two games in three days.

“It prepares you for postseason play, I think, and that’s something we want to be involved with.”

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