What went right: CU was able to make up for its offensive shortcomings by outrebounding Seattle 55-35. The Buffs’ defense also held Seattle to a 6-for-32 mark on 3-pointers.
What went wrong: The Buffs couldn’t find their touch from anywhere, finishing 19-for-53 (.358) from the floor and 3-for-18 from 3-point range. The top free throw shooting team in the Pac-12 last year went just 26-for-41 from the line.
Star of the game: Wesley Gordon. The senior forward posted the 11th double-double of his career, finishing with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
What’s next?: CU completes a season-opening three-game homestand Thursday at 7 p.m.against Louisiana-Monroe.
Tad Boyle hardly is alone among his coaching brethren when he preaches the idea that being consistently strong defensively and on the glass will always smooth over a rough night offensively.
Going forward, as the schedule slowly grows more competitive, the leader of the Colorado men’s basketball team can hold up Monday’s effort as a prime example of that adage.
Despite uncharacteristic shooting woes and a scrappy Seattle team that refused to go away, the Buffaloes leaned heavily on their defense while dominating the Redhawks on the glass, finally pulling away late to post a 67-55 win in the first game of the Legends Classic at the Coors Events Center.
“That’s something we praised them about in the locker room,” Boyle said. “I think the record is 40-2 when we’re (at) 40-percent field goal percentage defense and outrebound them by plus-eight. When we do both those things we’re 40-2. Well guess what? Now we’re 41-2 because we did both those things tonight. We defended. We rebounded at a high level. And we were able to win a game when we shot (.358) from the field and couldn’t make a free throw. That’s why our program is based on those values.”
After scoring 90 points and connecting on 13 3-pointers in a season-opening win late last week against Sacramento State, the Buffs failed to get into rhythm against Seattle’s zone defense. CU missed its first nine 3-point attempts and finished just 3-for-18 overall from beyond the arc.
The top free throw shooting team in the Pac-12 Conference last year, the Buffs suffered through an unusually difficult night at the line by going 26-for-41. The Buffs also committed 19 turnovers after having just 10 in their opener. Yet CU was able to make up for those shortcomings by holding Seattle to a .302 mark from the field while outrebounding the Redhawks 55-35.
Six different players recorded at least six rebounds for the Buffs.
“We had 19 turnovers and we shot 3-for-18 from three and we still won,” senior Derrick White said. “This showed that if we rebound and we guard that we can win. Our record when we do both those things is great, so we just have to keep doing that.”
Seattle built an eight-point lead midway through the first half before the Buffs rallied into a 31-31 tie at halftime. The Buffs appeared to take control by scoring 10 consecutive points in a 16-4 run that opened the second half but Seattle didn’t go away quietly, chipping away at CU’s advantage and pulling within 54-51 on a 4-point play by Brendan Westendorf with 6 minutes, 4 seconds remaining.
The Buffs answered with a game-clinching 10-2 run, with CU’s woes from 3-point range momentarily forgotten on back-to-back 3-pointers from Josh Fortune that gave the Buffs much-needed breathing room.
Senior Wesley Gordon posted his first double-double of the season and the 11th of his career with 11 points and 14 rebounds. White led four players in double figures with 15 points, while Fortune put together a solid all-around game with 12 points, seven rebounds, three steals, and two blocked shots. Xavier Johnson scored 13 points on a night that saw the senior become the 33rd member of CU’s 1,000-point club.
“That was the definition of winning ugly right there,” Boyle said. “But to figure out a way to win on a night when you’re not functioning offensively this early in the season is a testament to our guys’ will and their toughness. On nights like this you can win a game when your offense is anemic.”
CU 67, Seattle 55
At Coors Events Center
Westendorf 5-18 5-5 17, Chibuogwu 3-4 1-3 9, Menzies 4-5 0-0 8, Ulaneo 2-5 3-4 7, Moore 2-13 0-0 6, Powell 1-2 2-2 4, Means 2-12 0-0 4.
White 6-12 3-8 15, Johnson 3-7 7-8 13, Fortune 2-5 6-8 12, Gordon 2-6 7-8 11, King 3-8 0-1 7, Akyazili 1-5 3-4 5 Miller 2-5 0-4 4.
Score by quarters:
Seattle (1-1) 31 24 — 55
3-point field goals — Seattle (6): Chibuogwu (2), Westendorf (2), Moore (2); Colorado (3): Fortune (2), King. Total fouls — Seattle 32; Colorado 18. Fouled out — None