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Toughness on display against Dayton should serve CU Buffs well

Buffs fall just short of rejoining top 25

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 21: Obi Toppin #1 of the Dayton Flyers moves against Daylen Kountz #2 of the Colorado Buffaloes at the United Center on December 21, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Colorado defeated Dayton 78-76. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – DECEMBER 21: Obi Toppin #1 of the Dayton Flyers moves against Daylen Kountz #2 of the Colorado Buffaloes at the United Center on December 21, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Colorado defeated Dayton 78-76. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Obscured somewhat in the euphoria of the dramatic finish of Colorado’s overtime win at the buzzer against then-No. 13 Dayton on Saturday was the mettle the Buffaloes displayed early.

The Buffaloes very nearly were in danger of getting run out of the United Center in Chicago well before the Flyers faithful could grow hoarse from booing CU guard McKinley Wright. One of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, the Flyers began the game on a particularly torrid run, building a 14-point lead less than six minutes into the game.

But, in a sequence that should serve the Buffs well if they can repeat it consistently, CU didn’t flinch. It’s one thing to pull that off at the CU Events Center. It’s quite another to do so against a ranked team on a neutral floor in an atmosphere that was anything but neutral.

“You have to do that when other teams are making their run,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “You have to do that at timeouts when they’ve hit a bunch of shots in a row, and now we have to get back to who we are.

“This is a tough group. They’re mentally tough. I think this can be a win that as we look back on it, and certainly I’m not interested in looking back on it right now, but as we move forward, we’ve got Christmas coming up and this is a great way to go into it and be thankful for all of our blessings and everything we have in our lives and then come back and use it as a springboard for Iona and then Pac-12 play. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

Dayton hit eight of its first nine shots and led 19-5 when Boyle was forced to take a timeout just 5 minutes, 41 seconds into the game. From there, though, CU’s defense tightened. Dayton shot 8-for-19 over the remainder of the first half. While the Flyers finished the game at 50 percent (32-for-64) that still was below their season average of .537 going into the game. Dayton also shot only .436 following the 8-for-9 start.

“When you get stops, that opens up the game a lot,” Wright said. “Obviously we didn’t get stops early in the game, but to close the half and in the second half we did a pretty good job. When you get stops, that gets your offense going.”

The win didn’t quite propel the Buffs back into the AP top 25, though CU moved unofficially to No. 27 as the second team among others receiving votes. The Buffs garnered 79 points in the vote after netting just 12 last week. CU begins the week at No. 27 in the NET rankings.

Buff pride

Boyle said he enjoyed his first visit with Donnie Boyce, CU’s third-leading all-time scorer and a Chicago native who met with the Buffs the night before their win against Dayton.

“It was great to see him. I want our players to understand how good of a player Donnie Boyce was,” Boyle said. “He’s on our NBA wall, so they know who he is. But it was great to catch up with him and see how proud he is of being a Colorado Buffalo. And the reason for his pride is our team’s recent success. He shared with me there were many, many years where he couldn’t talk about being a Buff with pride because the program wasn’t winning. Now he can. He can talk about the basketball team and thump his chest a little bit.

“That’s what our responsibility is for every former player who’s played for us is to make them proud. Our players did that tonight, and I think we’ve done that over the last nine and a half years. I really do. I think we’ve brought some pride back to Colorado basketball that is much-needed.”

Notable

D’Shawn Schwartz’s 5-for-7 effort on 3-pointers against Dayton improved his season percentage to .463 (25-for-54). Take an uncharacteristic 0-for-7 game at Kansas out of the equation, and Schwartz’s 3-point percentage in CU’s other 12 games is .532…After a slow start to the season at the free throw line — the Buffs were shooting just .602 through the season’s first four games — CU has improved to .742 after a 17-for-21 effort against Dayton. CU’s free throw percentage of .753 last year, compiled essentially by the same group, was the third-best single-season mark in team history …The Flyers dropped to No. 18 in this week’s AP top 25.

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