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Stellar defense leads the way as No. 21 CU Buffs hold off Sacramento State

Nineteen turnovers limit CU’s offensive efficiency

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: olorado's Evan Battey looks to shoot Sacramento State's Ethan Esposito during second half of the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's Tyler Bey shoots over Sacramento State's Spencer Monteiro during second half of the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's Evan Battey gets fired up against Sacramento State during second half of the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's Evan Battey gets fired up against Sacramento State during second half of the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's McKinley Wright IV drives between Sacramento State's Ethan Esposito, left, and Izayah Mauriohooho, during the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's Lucas Siewert shoots over Sacramento State's Joshua Patton during second half of the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's D'Shawn Schwartz hits a shot falling down against Sacramento State during second half of the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's Dallas Walton shoots over Sacramento State's Ethan Esposito during second half of the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's Evan Battey looks to shoot Sacramento State's Ethan Esposito during second half of the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's Evan Battey rebounds between Sacramento State's Joshua Patton, left, and Ethan Esposito, during the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's McKinley Wright IV drives between Sacramento State's Joshua Patton during the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's D'Shawn Schwartz drives on Sacramento State's Joshua Patton during second half of the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - November 30, 2019: Colorado's McKinley Wright IV drives past Sacramento State's Ethan Esposito during the November 30, 2019 NCAA men's basketball game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer

    Colorado's McKinley Wright IV drives between Sacramento State's Ethan Esposito, left, and Izayah Mauriohooho, on Saturday.

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It certainly wasn’t the more efficient offense head coach Tad Boyle was hoping to see.

In fact, the Colorado Buffaloes’ first four possessions, resulting in three turnovers and an airball, were downright ugly. And the rest of the contest was only marginally more aesthetically pleasing for Buffs fans.

Still, the 21st-ranked Buffs have locked things down defensively as well as any team in college basketball during the first month of the season, and Saturday night proved no different. That defense allowed CU to overcome a turnover-plagued offensive performance to pull away from Sacramento State for a 59-45 win at the CU Events Center.

CU committed 12 turnovers in the first half and couldn’t shake the visiting Hornets until late, leaning on a defense that continued its season-long streak of holding opponents to 41 percent or less from the floor by harassing Sacramento State into a.283 mark.

“I need to apologize to any Buff fan that came out and watched this tonight. It was the epitome of winning ugly,” Boyle said. “We weren’t very good offensively. My hat’s off to our guys defensively. They guard. We rebound. There were some bright spots there. But I think we all expect more of this team on the offensive end than what we got tonight. For that, I take responsibility. It’s my job to get them better. Because that’s the fourth game in a row offensively that we have not been the team that we are in practice.”

The Buffs finished with a season-high 19 turnovers after committing 25 total during their two wins in Las Vegas earlier in the week. Those empty possessions marred a shooting performance that wasn’t a complete disaster, with CU finishing with a .444 overall mark with a 2-for-9 showing on 3-pointers. CU also went 17-for-26 at the free throw line just four days after going 24-for-25 at Clemson while hitting the final 24 in a row.

While the offense struggled, the Buffs continued to dominant defensively and on the glass. CU held Sacramento State scoreless over the final 6 minutes, 13 seconds of the first half to take a 24-16 lead at the break. That shutout streak by the CU defense continued through the first 1:28 of the second half.

The Buffs also outrebounded Sacramento State 41-32.

“We just got to do a better job of putting two halves together,” CU point guard McKinley Wright said. “We sucked in the first half. We sucked the whole game. Nineteen turnovers is terrible. But we got a win. Nothing to be mad about, but we’ve got to be better for teams coming down the stretch. Loyola Marymount (on Wednesday) is a pretty good team. They’ll come in and try to beat us. It’s my job to take control of the team and make sure we get off to better starts.”

Sacramento State remained within 45-40 with four minutes remaining, but Evan Battey connected on a pair of baskets during a 7-0 CU run that finally put the Hornets away.

Tyler Bey posted his fifth double-double in six games with 10 points, 17 rebounds, and four assists, while Battey finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Wright scored 11 points and senior Lucas Siewert came off the bench to contribute seven points and nine rebounds.

“We had it at times. We had some good possessions. It’s not like we were awful the whole game,” Boyle said. “We just had too many empty possessions. We had 19 turnovers against a team that doesn’t pressure you. They don’t press you full-court. It’s all half-court stuff.

“The one thing I love about this team is we do guard, and we do rebound, and we do compete. We’ve got toughness. There’s a lot of things I love about this team. But we’ve got some good offensive players that aren’t playing good offensively. And they’re not taking care of the ball and they’re taking tough shots. Those are the things we have to get corrected.”

No. 21 COLORADO 59, SACRAMENTO ST. 45
SACRAMENTO ST. (5-1)
Patton 1-8 2-2 4, Esposito 5-15 2-4 12, Mauriohooho-Le’afa 2-11 5-6 10, Davis 4-8 0-0 8, Nwachukwu 0-1 0-0 0, Jacobs 1-5 0-0 2, Monteiro 0-0 0-0 0, Fowler 4-11 1-2 9, McCullough 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-60 10-14 45.
COLORADO (6-0)
Battey 5-9 1-3 11, Parquet 2-2 0-1 4, M.Wright 3-5 4-6 10, Schwartz 4-8 0-1 8, Bey 2-3 6-9 11, Siewert 3-10 0-0 7, Walton 0-1 0-0 0, Kountz 0-2 2-2 2, Gatling 1-5 4-4 6, Daniels 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-45 17-26 59.
Halftime – Colorado 24-16. 3-Point Goals_Sacramento St. 1-8 (Mauriohooho-Le’afa 1-5, McCullough 0-1, Esposito 0-1, Davis 0-1), Colorado 2-9 (Bey 1-1, Siewert 1-5, Gatling 0-3). Fouled Out – Jacobs, Patton, Davis. Rebounds – Sacramento St. 32 (Jacobs, Mauriohooho-Le’afa 7), Colorado 41 (Bey 16). Assists – Sacramento St. 5 (Fowler 2), Colorado 10 (Bey 4). Total Fouls – Sacramento St. 26, Colorado 14. A – 6,170.