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It was Evan Battey who noted the most obvious difference between Dallas Walton and his recent replacement in the Colorado starting lineup, Jeriah Horne.
At an even 7-foot, Walton is a legitimate rim protector defensively, and his light feet and soft shooting touch makes him a weapon offensively. Horne owns similar offensive skills, but at 6-foot-7, his defensive prowess is more about guile and grit than being a sheer physical presence.
Yet with Walton sidelined the past three games, and likely out at least through Monday’s game at Utah, CU head coach Tad Boyle has turned to Horne to fill the void in the starting lineup. The graduate transfer from Tulsa enjoyed another strong game during Thursday’s win against No. 17 Oregon, knocking down three 3-pointers before finishing with 17 points and six rebounds.
Horne has been a pleasant surprise during the early portion of what presumably will be his only season with the Buffs. With Walton expected to be sidelined at least through Monday’s game at Utah (4 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) and freshman forward Jabari Walker struggling to stay on the floor due to foul trouble, the Buffs likely will have to lean on Horne a little more heavily in the immediate future.
“First of all, Jeriah is a little bit shorter than Dallas,” Battey said. “But he brings versatility to the offense. And he takes challenges defensively. He might not always be the most athletic. He might not always be the quickest. But he’s going to take the challenge and really battle. That’s huge, because that’s what we’re all about, I feel like. He came up huge (against Oregon), especially on defense when I went out of the game. He took on the challenge of guarding their best player. He’s just a hell of a player. He brings to this team what we embody as a team — defense, rebounding, toughness. He has those characteristics.”
Ideally, Horne was added to provide a smooth off-the-bench replacement for departed 2019-20 senior Lucas Siewert as a forward whose outside shooting touch could extend defenses. So far, Horne has been much more than that.
After Thursday’s relatively pedestrian 3-for-9 mark from 3-point range, Horne currently is shooting a stellar .435 (20-for-46) on 3-pointers. He has yet to miss from the free throw line (16-for-16) and after averaging five rebounds per game over 63 games during his two seasons at Tulsa, Horne is averaging 5.8 rebounds through his first 11 games with the Buffs.
Horne probably won’t land on the Pac-12’s All-Defensive team, but he came up big at that end of the floor against the Ducks. When Battey was assessed what he believes was cheap foul and earned a technical for his reaction at the 15 minute, 19 second mark of the second half, CU’s top defensive forward was sent to the bench. And with Walker again struggling with fouls — the freshman has committed eight fouls in about 20 minutes of action over the past two games — Horne was forced to check Oregon star forward Eugene Omoruyi.
Omoruyi finished with 18 points, but scored only six of those after halftime.
“Everybody talks about McKinley (Wright IV) and Evan and D’Shawn (Schwartz), but boy, I thought Jeriah played big (against Oregon),” Boyle said. “He keeps getting more comfortable I think in our system. He knows how to get his own shots.”