AIR FORCE ACADEMY — Dom Collier is back. However it might still be a few weeks before the junior guard can claim he is 100 percent.
After missing the previous nine games due to a stress fracture in his left foot, Collier returned to the Colorado Buffaloes’ rotation Monday at Air Force, coming off the bench to go 3-for-6 from 3-point range before finishing with nine points.
Shooting-wise, Collier picked up where he left off. The Denver East graduate made 4-of-6 3-pointers in the season opener against Sacramento State but played just seven minutes in the second game against Seattle before the foot pain intensified.
“I played him a few more minutes than I expected to, but we needed him,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “We needed him to make some shots and he made some shots. It’s nice having an extra ball-handler out there, even though he had two turnovers in the first half. But he’s just getting back into the flow of things. I love having him back out there.”
Collier endured a concerning moment in the second half when, after getting tangled with an Air Force player, a twinge of pain in his foot forced Collier to hobble to the bench. He returned shortly thereafter though, and he expects to be in far better shape by the time the Buffs begin Pac-12 Conference play at Utah on New Year’s Day.
“It felt good to get back in there,” Collier said. “I was a little winded at times, but I expected that because I haven’t ran a lot. Especially at game speed. It feels fine now, just a little sore.”
The return of Collier coupled with another solid performance off the bench from freshman Deleon Brown has altered the Buffs’ rotation.
Given that freshman guard Bryce Peters was suspended for the first two games this season, Monday’s game marked the first time this season Boyle had his full complement of players at his disposal. Peters did not play for the first time this season while being eligible, and fellow freshman Lucas Siewert logged a season-low four minutes, all in the first half.
Brown, however, was a big spark off the bench for the second consecutive game, going 3-for-6 from the field and 3-for-4 at the free throw line before finishing with 10 points and a team-leading four assists in 24 minutes.
“It’s hard to play 11. Nothing against Bryce, but you have to make the cutoff somewhere,” Boyle said. “Deleon is a guy, you look at his efficiency numbers and it’s something we’ve looked at, we’ve inserted him as that first guard off the bench the last couple games. He’s a good player and we need him.”
CU has won seven consecutive games against Air Force…Xavier Johnson’s 14 points and six rebounds continued a solid five-game run for the CU senior. In that span Johnson has shot .540 from the floor (27-for-50) while averaging 16.6 points and 5.6 rebounds…CU made 10 3-pointers for just the second time this season and the first time since draining 13 in the season opener.