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Game day notes: Stronger starts to games a requisite down the stretch for No. 21 CU Buffs

Cal hosting its annual Pete Newell Classic

McKinley Wright IV and the rest of the starters for the No. 21 Colorado Buffaloes will try to put together better starts to games down the stretch, beginning Thursday night at Cal. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

BERKELEY, Calif. — The Colorado Buffaloes got away with a slow start the last time they played Cal, as well as on several other occasions during Pac-12 Conference play.

It’s a bad habit head coach Tad Boyle hopes gets corrected when the Buffs visit the Golden Bears Thursday night at Haas Pavilion (7 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks).

Cal enters Thursday’s game ranked eighth in the Pac-12 in defensive field goal percentage, but in Boulder on Feb. 6 the Bears held the Buffs to a .393 mark in the first half before CU finally came alive, shooting .591 after halftime.

That wasn’t the only time the Buffs have authored that sort of script. Against Stanford two days later, the Buffs shot just .286 in the first half but erupted for a .700 mark (14-for-20) in the second half. In a home win against USC last week CU shot .345 in the first half but shot. 607 after halftime.

With three games remaining in the regular season, all on the road, surviving slow starts probably is not a habit that will remain sustainable over the final two weeks of the regular season.

“We haven’t gotten off to good starts the last couple games,” Boyle said. “The bench sometimes has been inconsistent. Sometimes there’s production coming off the bench and sometimes there’s not. But you know what? The starters have been inconsistent too in terms of getting us to (good starts). And everybody has a job to do. And when you’re in that starting five, your job is to be ready to go when that ball is tipped. You are crisp and tough and mentally ready and physically ready and sharp. You’re not lethargic. You’re not waiting to get your sweat going.

“Now, when you’re coming off the bench, it’s a little bit more difficult. But you get a chance to watch what’s going on and the flow of the game and what’s working, what’s not working, and who you’re going to be guarding. Now you come in and your job and your opportunity is to give the team a boost and a bump. A shot in the arm. When the starters do their job, get us off to a good start, and then the bench does their job, comes in and gives us a lift, that’s when we’re at our best. And you can say that for every college basketball team.”

Cal tradition

Thursday’s game will be the annual Pete Newell Classic at Cal. Every year, the Bears recognize a basketball alumnus with the Pete Newell Career Achievement Award, which is given to a former Cal player who “has distinguished himself in his career accomplishments.”

This year’s recipient will be Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who was the 1996 Pac-12 Player of the Year at Cal before playing 12 seasons in the NBA.

Notable

The 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award was released Thursday morning, and CU junior Tyler Bey did not make the cut. Bey was among the 15 players on the midseason list for the award released in January, but no Pac-12 players were among the 10 semifinalists announced Thursday…CU begins Thursday at No. 17 in the NET rankings…With three games remaining, the 21-7 Buffs have ample opportunity to post win No. 22, which would be the most regular season wins in program history.