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Northern Iowa a challenge after a challenge for No. 24 CU Buffs basketball

Tad Boyle calls matchup CU’s “biggest trap game of the year”


Hot shooters never expect to get derailed. D’Shawn Schwartz is no different. And before he turned in a performance he’d rather forget during Saturday’s loss at Kansas, Schwartz figured another big game might be in store.

It wasn’t the case at all, for Schwartz or the rest of the Buffaloes. Yet CU has a quick turnaround before facing another quality opponent, this time at home Tuesday night against Northern Iowa, and CU’s junior wing is taking an approach the entire team is attempting to replicate: Forget about Kansas and move on.

Ryan Weaver/For
After McKinley Wright IV and the Colorado Buffaloes were derailed a bit by Kansas, another good opportunity presents itself Tuesday at home against Northern Iowa.

“It’s just one game. It’s all you’ve got to remember,” said Schwartz, who went 0-for-7 on 3-pointers after entering the contest with a 14-for-27 mark from long range. “We didn’t shoot particularly well as a team. That’s not us. That’s not normal. You can’t change anything now.

“It was a little weird, but before we got to the last 10 minutes of warm-ups I probably didn’t miss. That might have been a sign. I don’t really think like that. I just try to think the next one’s going in.”

On Monday, the Buffs dropped four spots to No. 24 in the weekly AP top 25 poll, but the club received good news upon returning to practice Monday morning as Tyler Bey is expected to resume his normal spot in the starting lineup against Northern Iowa after suffering a bruised knee late in the loss at Kansas.

Following Monday’s workout, CU head coach Tad Boyle expressed great respect for Northern Iowa, which brings an 8-1 mark to Boulder and has excelled on defense. That could be a problem for a turnover-prone Buffs attack that is coming off its worst shooting performance of a season that hasn’t exactly been highlighted by lights-out shooting.

“This is the biggest trap game of the year for Colorado,” Boyle said. “These are the ones that you think, OK, it’s a quality team at home. But then as the game gets closer you’re like, ‘Why the hell did I schedule this?’

“Emotionally is where I’m concerned with the bounce-back. Physically, we traveled (Sunday) and we didn’t practice. We did the scouting report. I’m giving these guys plenty of time off physically to get in the training room, to get their bodies right. It’s going to be a physical game, and if we have an emotional letdown after the Kansas game, which is sometimes a natural thing, we’re going to be in for a battle. If we’re emotionally ready and we’re physically ready and we play with great toughness and we start executing on offense the way we’re capable of executing, it’s certainly a winnable game. I think it’s probably the second-best team we’ve played all year.”

Northern Iowa has mirrored the Buffs somewhat as a young team a year ago that managed to surge down the stretch. The Panthers finished sixth in Missouri Valley Conference during the regular season last year but nearly nabbed an NCAA Tournament berth, rolling through the MVC tournament before losing by three points to Bradley in the title game. Northern Iowa has limited its opponents to a .398 mark overall from the floor and a .305 mark on 3-pointers while holding teams to just 61.1 points per game.

“They gap it up. They really clog things up and they dare you to beat them with jump shots,” Boyle said. “They double the post, especially when you post your four-man on them. So we’re going to have to handle that. They make you beat them with jump shots. That’s what they want to do. We have to be patient enough to get the ball moved from side to side and get the ball in the paint, whether it’s on a post-up or a drive, before we settle for quick jump shots. If we settle for one-pass jump shots and quick jumpers, it’s advantage Northern Iowa.”

Northern Iowa at No. 24 CU Buffs

TIPOFF: Tuesday, 7 p.m., CU Events Center.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Networks; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM

RECORDS: Northern Iowa 8-1; Colorado 7-1.

COACHES: Northern Iowa — Ben Jacobson, 14th season (274-169 at UNI and overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 10th season (196-124, 252-190 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Northern Iowa — G AJ Green, So., 14.4 ppg, 3.6 apg, 16-for-17 free throws; G Trae Berhow, Jr., 13.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg; F Austin Phyfe, R-So., 9.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg. Colorado — F Tyler Bey, Jr., 12.9 ppg, 11.6 rpg; G McKinley Wright, Jr., 11.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.5 apg; G/F D’Shawn Schwartz, Jr., 11.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, .412 3-point percentage.

WHAT TO WATCH: Northern Iowa excels in the same areas as the Buffs, holding their opponents to a .398 mark from the floor while posting a plus-5.3 average rebounding margin. The Buffs couldn’t get the ball in the paint at all at Kansas. If they work it inside consistently against the Panthers they should fare well.

NOTES: This is the first meeting between the programs…Jacobson has won four MVC tournaments at UNI, a total that ranks second in conference history behind current Oregon and former Creighton coach Dana Altman…The Buffs went 26-for-59 (.441) on 3-pointers during the first three games of the season but have shot .269 (28-of-104) in the five games since…CU has owned an advantage on second-chance points in every game this season, including a 19-12 edge in the loss at No. 2 Kansas on Saturday…Northern Iowa has lost its past seven games against ranked opponents…While Wright has collected eight assists against 10 turnovers over the past three games, the Buffs’ turnover issues — they are averaging 14.9 per game overall and 18 per game over the past three — have been a team effort. Three regular rotation players who posted positive assist-to-turnover rates last season have reversed that trend through the first eight games — Shane Gatling (4 assists, 9 turnovers), Daylen Kountz (4 assists, 11 turnovers), and Evan Battey (8 assists, 13 turnovers)…CU and Colorado State meet for the 129th time Friday night in Fort Collins (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network).