Rebounding, shot selection keys for CU basketball in rivalry battle at CSU

Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle, right, feels the Buffs need to have good shot selection on Saturday against the Rams.

Colorado men’s basketball preview: Colorado State

MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (6-0) at Colorado State Rams (3-4).

GAME TIME: Saturday, 11 a.m., Moby Arena, Fort Collins.

BROADCAST: TV — AT&T Sports Network; Radio — 850 AM (also 102.9 FM in Fort Collins and 104.7 FM in Denver).

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 8th season (155-95, 211-161 overall); CSU — Larry Eustachy, 6th season (114-64, 516-322 overall).

LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G George King, Sr., 16.0 ppg; Rebounding: King, 8.8 rpg; Assists: G McKinley Wright, Fr., 4.2 apg. Colorado State — Scoring: G Prentiss Nixon, Jr., 15.8 ppg; Rebounding: F Che Bob, Sr., 9.7 rpg; Assists: F Nico Carvacho, So., 2.4 apg.

NOTES: CU leads the rivalry series 89-38. The Buffs have won their past two games at CSU and own a 37-27 advantage in Fort Collins…The road team has won the past four CU-CSU games…King has reached 25 points in each of the past two games, trailing only the career-best 27 he scored at Auburn more than two years ago. King also recorded a career-best 15 rebounds Sunday against Air Force…The Rams are coming off a 77-67 loss Tuesday at Missouri State…Colorado returns home to host New Mexico on Wednesday in the teams’ first matchup since 2010.

Time of possession typically isn’t a statistic that carries much weight in basketball.

However, during last year’s ugly home loss against their rivals from Colorado State, CU men’s coach Tad Boyle believed the quick shots his club often were goaded into by the Rams played a pivotal role in a loss that arguably set the tone for the struggles the Buffaloes faced soon thereafter in Pac-12 Conference play.

Even though Boyle remains adamant that rebounding will play perhaps the most critical factor when the rivals meet for the 128th time Saturday morning, the young Buffs also will be charged with continuing their early-season penchant of not generally launching bad shots when they hit the Moby Arena floor.

“CSU will bait you into early threes. They want you to shoot the ball early in the shot clock,” said Boyle, whose club went 3-for-16 from long range during last year’s loss to CSU. “In football, they’ve got the time of possession. You don’t see that in basketball, but my guess is (last year) was probably 25, 26 minutes for CSU.

“We told our guys we can’t settle for early threes. That’s what they want. You take those early threes and they don’t go in, it’s a tough deal.”

Despite Boyle’s assertion that winning the rebounding battle remains priority No. 1 against the Rams, how the Buffs fare along the 3-point line at both ends of the floor will likely be a critical factor in the outcome as well. Offensively, the Buffs haven’t been prone to taking poor shots and have posted a .314 mark (37-for-118) at the 3-point line, a figure that has risen slightly in recent games following a rough start to the season from long range.

CSU is shooting just .281 from 3-point range and has watched its struggles intensify in recent games, going just 4-for-23 on 3-pointers in Tuesday’s loss at Missouri State. While that could be a promising sign for CU, the Buffs also have struggled at defending the arc. Air Force, for example, arrived at the Coors Events Center earlier this week having made just 15 of 54 3-point attempts in its previous two games before going 8-for-15 in the first half against the Buffs.

“We know that Colorado State has very capable 3-point shooters, they just haven’t been making shots,” Boyle said. “We just need to make sure they don’t get started against the Buffs. The kid they’ve got coming in off the bench (Lorenzo Jenkins), he’s 8-for-12 on the year from three. They’ve got multiple weapons behind the arc, they just haven’t been making shots.”

As for that rebounding battle, the Buffs have been beaten on the glass just once in six games and could receive reinforcements on that front with the potential return of Lucas Siewert. The sophomore forward has missed the past two games due to an ankle injury he suffered Nov. 18 against Drake, and Boyle on Friday described a possible comeback as a likely “game-time decision.” The 6-foot-10 Siewert ranks second on the team at 5.0 rebounds per game and is shooting .529 (9-for-17) from the field. Siewert likely won’t be 100 percent Saturday morning but has expanded his workload at practice in recent days.

“It’s getting better but it’s still not all the way there,” Siewert said. “I don’t want to force it to the point where it gets worse than what it was the day before. I’ve just got to play through it and do what I can to help the team.”

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