Give the San Diego Toreros credit. They certainly know how to coax some ugly basketball out of Colorado.
This time, though, the Buffaloes were able to persevere and survive. Playing their first game as a nationally-ranked team in nearly six years, the 25th-ranked Buffs overcame a poor shooting performance in the first half to pull away from San Diego for a 71-53 victory in the home opener at the CU Events Center.
After losing to San Diego in each of the past two seasons, the Toreros gave the Buffs another battle before an 18-0 CU run blew the game open in the second half.
“It was a workmanlike win, if you will. Maybe in some respects an ugly win,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “But when you win by 18 at home and you’ve got a little bit a sense of disappointment that we didn’t play as well as we’re capable of playing, I think that’s a sign of progress to some degree.
“We know we have to be better than we were tonight to be the kind of team we want to be this year. Turnovers were a good example of that. Free throw shooting is a good example of that. The little things that separate programs that are great or elite, and programs that are good and solid. Right now I think we’re good and solid but we’re certainly not elite and we’re not where we want to be. We’ll take the win against a good San Diego team that’s beaten us two years in a row.”
CU stumbled out of the gate, committing six turnovers within the first nine minutes of the game while the Toreros sporadically surged into narrow leads, though San Diego never led by more than four. The Buffs shot just .344 in the first half (11-for-32) but came alive after the break, going 12-for-24 overall in the second half with a 6-for-11 mark on 3-pointers. At one point early in the second half CU was just 5-for-11 at the free throw line, but the Buffs went 9-for-10 the rest of the way.
A 3-pointer from CU’s Maddox Daniels late in the first half gave the Buffs a 30-27 lead at halftime, and 11 quick points by D’Shawn Schwartz after the break gave CU a nine-point lead with 11 minutes, 39 seconds remaining.
San Diego remained within four points when a 3-pointer from senior Lucas Siewert spurred the Buffs to their game-breaking 18-0 run.
“I think the nerves kind of calmed down a little bit,” Schwartz said. “It was a packed out house. It’s great, love to see it. We just had to slow down a little bit and get our heads on us.”
Tyler Bey posted his second double-double of the young season and the 21st of his career, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Schwartz paced the Buffs with 15 points, while Siewert finished 3-for-5 on 3-pointers with 11 points and five rebounds.
Point guard McKinley Wright was only 5-for-13 from the floor, but he eventually finished with 11 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
“In the first half I thought our motion offense was atrocious. We stood around. We didn’t cut. We didn’t move the ball,” Boyle said. “We switched to a kind of a ball-screen, continuity offense with about four minutes to go in the first half and we stuck with it in the second half. We knew they were going to press after free throws. We wanted to attack their press. We didn’t attack their press in the first half. We turned it over against their press. You can’t do that. You have to make teams pay for pressing you in your own building. We didn’t do that in the first half. In the second half we did a better job of that.”
No. 25 Colorado 71, San Diego 53
San Diego (2-3)
Floresca 3-7 0-0 8, Jean-Marie 1-4 2-3 4, Humphrey 2-5 0-0 4, Hartfield 2-12 2-2 7, Calcaterra 4-11 0-0 10, Rodriguez 1-5 1-2 4, Coleman 4-5 1-1 10, Sullivan 2-5 2-2 6, Philip 0-1 0-0 0, Parris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-55 8-10 53.
Battey 2-5 1-2 6, Bey 4-7 4-4 14, Kountz 0-5 0-0 0, Schwartz 4-6 5-7 15, Wright 5-13 1-4 11, Gatling 2-5 2-2 8, Siewert 4-7 0-0 11, Daniels 1-4 0-0 3, Walton 1-4 1-2 3, Parquet 0-0 0-0 0, Strating 0-0 0-0 0, Dombek 0-0 0-0 0, Ryder 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-56 14-21 71.
Halftime: Colorado 30, San Diego 27. 3-point goals: San Diego 7-26 (Floresca 2-5, Jean-Marie 0-2, Humphrey 0-2, Hartfield 1-5, Calcaterra 2-4, Rodriguez 1-3, Coleman 1-1, Sullivan 0-3, Philip 0-1); Colorado 11-24 (Battey 1-2, Bey 2-3, Kountz 0-2, Schwartz 2-3, Wright 0-2, Gatling 2-4, Siewert 3-5, Daniels 1-3). Rebounds: San Diego 33 (Jean-Marie 8); Colorado 40 (Bey 10). Assists: San Diego 10 (Floresca, Hartfield 3); Colorado 13 (Wright 5). Total fouls: San Diego 20, Colorado 12. A: 7,713.