So far, Tad Boyle is 2-for-2 when shaking up the lineup.
For the second time this season, the CU men’s basketball team utilized a much-overhauled starting lineup at the outset of what became a wild double-overtime victory for the Buffaloes against South Dakota State Friday night.
According to Boyle the move was made against the advice of his assistants, and unlike the revamped lineup the Buffs used during a Dec. 6 win against New Mexico, the Buffs started a pair of players in redshirt freshman Alex Strating and senior walk-on Josh Repine unlikely to log many minutes the remainder of the season.
Those two players plus freshman D’Shawn Schwartz made the first starts of their careers.
“I’m bought in. I think this whole team is bought in to doing whatever we need to to get a win,” freshman guard McKinley Wright said. “At the beginning of the year I told coach I didn’t care about coming off the bench or starting. I just want to help the team win. It wasn’t nothing that made me mad or anything. I just wanted to come out and win.”
It was the first time this season neither Wright nor senior George King was in the starting lineup, and both players responded to Boyle’s message. Despite playing just 19 minutes due to foul trouble, King shook off a recent slump to go 5-for-7 overall with four 3-pointers, finishing with 17 points and five rebounds.
Wright became the fourth CU freshman to score 30 points and just missed posting the fourth triple-double in program history, recording 30 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds. Wright would have been just the second CU player after Chauncey Billups to earn a triple double on points-rebounds-assists, as former forward David Harrison recorded two of the program’s three triple-doubles with double-digit blocks.
Following CU’s first loss of the season Dec. 2 at Colorado State, Boyle altered his lineup the following game against New Mexico by adding freshman Lazar Nikolic and sophomore Deleon Brown to the starting unit. The Buffs answered with what became the club’s only win in a four-game stretch.
The fresh blood didn’t necessarily change the complexion of Friday night’s victory (Strating, for example, went 0-for-1 with one rebound and two fouls in three minutes), but Boyle did credit a hustle play made by Repine to give CU the ball off the opening tip for setting a hard-nosed tone that had been lacking during the Buffs’ previous run of three losses in four games.
“You think about the tip — Josh Repine dives on the floor for a loose ball and gets our possession. And that’s just the opening tip,” Boyle said. “Would one of those other guys have dived on the floor? I’ve not seen it yet.
“I trust everyone on our team. I trust our walk-ons. I trust our scholarship guys. And I love every one of them too. It’s just a message I wanted to send, and hopefully it was received.”
The Buffs are taking a couple days off ahead of final exams as well as the final nonconference date of the season, a battle Friday against Iowa in Sioux Falls, S.D., a team that also lost to South Dakota State and went into Friday’s date against Drake (another common opponent with CU) with losses in six of eight games.
“We’ve got a very deep team. We’ve got a lot of players that can come in and play,” Wright said. “I have high confidence in this team and believe in every single player.”