Rematch at San Diego a good early measuring stick for CU basketball

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Last year’s rough loss against San Diego is still fresh on the minds of Namon Wright and the CU men’s basketball team as they prepare to play the Toreros on Tuesday in San Diego.

CU men’s basketball preview: San Diego Toreros

TIPOFF: Tuesday, 8 p.m. MT, Jenny Craig Pavilion, San Diego, Calif.

BROADCAST: TV — ESPNU; Radio — 850 AM.

RECORDS: CU 2-0; San Diego 3-1.

COACHES: San Diego — Sam Scholl, 1st year (5-3 at San Diego and overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (168-110, 224-176 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 15.0 ppg, 5.5 apg; G Namon Wright, Sr., 18.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg; F Lucas Siewert, Jr., 13.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg. San Diego — F Isaiah Pineiro, Sr., 19.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg; G Olin Carter, Sr., 16.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg; G Tyler Williams, Sr., 8.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.3 apg.

NOTES: Through two games, the Buffs’ Siewert has gone 6-for-8 on 3-pointers. Namon Wright is 6-for-12…Scholl coached the final four games of the 2017-18 season for San Diego after Lamont Smith, who coached the Toreros to a win at CU last December, resigned following an arrest for alleged domestic assault. The charges were later dropped, and Smith currently is an assistant at UTEP…The Buffs went 1-10 in true road games last year…CU assistant Bill Grier won 117 games in eight seasons as San Diego’s head coach from 2007-08 through 2014-15…The Buffs’ win Friday against Omaha was Boyle’s 400th game as a Division I head coach…This will be CU’s first game at San Diego since earning an overtime win on Jan. 2, 1991…The Buffs play at Air Force Saturday (4 p.m., AT&T Sports Net).

It will be only the third game of the season, with plenty of marquee matchups still awaiting Colorado in Pac-12 Conference play.

However, Tuesday night’s battle at the University of San Diego will offer the Buffaloes an interesting opportunity to gauge just how far they have progressed over the past year.

Last December, the Toreros came to the CU Events Center and handed coach Tad Boyle’s club one of its most frustrating losses of the season while harassing the Buffs into a historically poor shooting performance. With those lineups largely still intact for both teams, CU will get another shot at the Toreros in its first road game of the season.

“The bulk of their team and the bulk of our team is returning,” Boyle said. “Hopefully our players are dialed in and understand this is not going to be an easy game. Anybody who knows college basketball knows this is going to be a heck of a game. They have a good team, I think we have a good team. It’s going to come down to who can execute their offense.

“I think they are a very good defensive team. We’re a good defensive team. I’m not sure we’re a very good one yet, but we’ll be tested. These guys execute at a high level.”

The Buffs had no solution for San Diego’s defense year ago.

In a 69-59 loss, the Buffs finished just .259 (14-for-54) from the floor. That mark was the worst field goal percentage by a Buffs team in almost five years, dating back to a .231 performance against Cal on March 2, 2013, and was by far CU’s worst shooting performance of the 2017-18 season.

The Buffs needed two late baskets in order to avoid matching the program record for fewest field goals in a game, though it was the lowest field goal percentage compiled by a Buffs team at the CU Events Center. CU also finished just 3-for-18 on 3-pointers against San Diego.

“We’re going to approach this game just like we approached the first two of the year. We just want to win,” CU point guard McKinley Wright said. “One of our goals this year is to have seven road wins, and we weren’t a very good road team last year. This year, we’re looking to change that. We know we owe these guys one. They came into our house last year and stole one from us. We want it back. That’s the plan.”

San Diego is off to a 3-1 start, with the only setback occurring in a three-point loss at Washington last week. The Toreros have a new coach in former assistant Sam Scholl, but the same defensive sets that stymied the Buffs so thoroughly a year ago again will be on display.

“The bulk of what they’re doing is the same, and quite frankly the bulk of what we’re doing is the same. We’ve added a few different sets, different plays, but it’s going to be a heck of a measuring stick for where we are. It’s coming a little earlier than I would’ve liked on the schedule. But I think our guys are ready for the challenge.”

Pat Rooney: or