For the second consecutive winter, something special might be brewing in Boulder.
Last year, of course, the excitement surrounding the Colorado men’s basketball team evaporated with discouraging speed. A late losing streak, combined with the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, turned into the lasting story of a team that had been in the mix for the Pac-12 Conference title until the season’s final three weeks.
There remains plenty of basketball remaining in the 2020-21 season, and chances are the Buffaloes will hit some adversity over the final 13 scheduled games of the regular season. However, this CU team is a deeper, more versatile unit than last year’s squad. And all those elements were on display Saturday afternoon, as the surging Buffs posted a solid, well-balanced 77-64 win against Stanford at the CU Events Center.
As has been the case throughout CU’s four-game winning streak, the Buffs pounced on their opponent with a game-changing run, this time in the form of a 16-3 run just before halftime. CU scored the final 11 of those points in a row, and nine different Buffs players tallied points before halftime. Stanford played shorthanded, as starters Bryce Wills and Spencer Jones were sidelined with injuries.
“The biggest thing that we’ve been focusing on is just playing together,” CU senior forward Jeriah Horne said. “One thing (we) love about this team is no one cares about the stats. We all just care about winning. I think that sums it up completely. We go out there, we play for each other. We play for the coaches. It’s a family, and it’s a very strong bond. I think you can see that chemistry off the court showing on the court.”
It was a slow start shooting-wise for both teams, with the Buffs opening the game 3-for-11 and just 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, just 48 hours after going 12-for-21 from the arc in a win against Cal. Yet with CU holding a 24-23 lead at the 6 minute, 4 second mark of the first half, the Buffs turned it on in a hurry.
Five different players scored for the Buffs during the 16-3 run that closed the half, with freshman Tristan da Silva capping the run by knocking down his first career 3-pointer just ahead of the buzzer off a feed from McKinley Wright IV. After starting 1-for-7 from the 3-point arc, CU went 7-for-10 from long range over the remainder of the first half.
It continued a trend that has been prevalent throughout CU’s win streak. Against Oregon last week, the Buffs opened the second half with a 14-2 run. In a win at Utah on Monday, CU opened the second half with 15 consecutive points. And during Thursday’s win against Cal, the Buffs finished the first half on a 23-5 run.
Four players scored in double-figures for the Buffs, led by the second double-double of the season and the seventh of his career from forward Evan Battey (13 points, 12 rebounds).
Two days after topping Jay Humphries’ all-time assists record against Cal, Wright turned in another outstanding all-around game with 14 points, eight assists, and five rebounds with only two turnovers. Freshman Jabari Walker continued his breakout week, coming off the bench to post 11 points and eight rebounds.
“We’ve got a lot of capable players on that bench, and a lot of them aren’t even playing that are capable players,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “I think our depth earlier in the season was a little bit untested. I think now you see Jabari Walker feeling much more comfortable out there when he gets in the game. Tristan da Silva is feeling much more comfortable when he gets in the game. Maddox Daniels gives us great depth on the perimeter, a guy that can come in and shoot. I thought he played really hard.”
What went right: CU broke the game open with 16-3 run before halftime, and the Buffs outrebounded Stanford 42-36.
What went wrong: CU didn’t get to the free throw line in the first half and took a few ill-advised shots after halftime, posting a .343 shooting percentage in the second half.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright IV. In a balanced attack, CU’s point guard did a little bit of everything, finishing with a team-leading 14 points to go with eight assists and five rebounds.
What’s next: The Buffs hit the road for a two-game swing through Washington beginning Wednesday in Seattle against the Huskies (7 p.m. MT, ESPNU).
Colorado 77, Stanford 64
STANFORD (8-5, 4-3 Pac-12)
Delaire 5-15 2-2 13, Williams 7-15 1-1 17, O. da Silva 7-14 6-6 22, Davis 1-5 2-2 4, O’Connell 0-1 0-0 0, Murrell 1-1 3-3 5, Angel 0-3 0-0 0, Taitz 0-5 0-0 0, Kisunas 0-0 0-0 0, Keefe 1-1 1-1 3, Beskind 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-60 15-15 64.
COLORADO (11-3, 5-2)
Battey 5-9 3-3 13, Horne 3-8 2-2 10, Parquet 2-8 0-0 6, Wright 6-12 2-2 14, Schwartz 2-8 2-2 6, Daniels 3-7 0-0 9, Walker 4-9 3-4 11, Barthelemy 1-2 0-0 3, T. da Silva 2-4 0-0 5, O’Brien 0-0 0-0 0, Clifford 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-68 12-13 77.
Halftime — Colorado 40-26. 3-point goals — Stanford 5-18 (O.da Silva 2-3, Williams 2-5, Delaire 1-1, O’Connell 0-1, Angel 0-2, Davis 0-3, Taitz 0-3), Colorado 9-27 (Daniels 3-6, Horne 2-5, Parquet 2-5, T.da Silva 1-1, Barthelemy 1-2, Battey 0-1, Walker 0-2, Wright 0-2, Schwartz 0-3). Rebounds — Stanford 36 (O. da Silva 12), Colorado 42 (Battey 12). Assists — Stanford 7 (Williams, O.da Silva, O’Connell 2), Colorado 16 (Wright 8). Total fouls — Stanford 13, Colorado 13.