Jeriah Horne wanted to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth and showcase a little more of his skill set with this final year of eligibility.
Colorado had never added a graduate transfer through coach Tad Boyle’s first 10 seasons at CU. Yet the Buffaloes had a void in the frontcourt after losing Tyler Bey to the NBA Draft alongside the graduation of Lucas Siewert. Without Siewert and fellow 2020 senior Shane Gatling, the Buffs also needed to replace two of their top 3-point shooters.
Horne has filled those voids and a heck of a lot more this season for the Buffs.
The graduate transfer from Tulsa is coming off another standout performance, as his 24 points, on a 6-for-9 night from 3-point range, helped push the Buffs to an 80-62 win on Thursday night against No. 19 USC. For Horne and the Buffs, the win all but cemented the team-wide goal of landing an NCAA Tournament berth. It also clinched a first-round bye at the Pac-12 Conference tournament, as CU no longer can finish lower than fourth.
Heading into Saturday’s showdown against league-leading UCLA, Horne is putting together one of the top seasons by any transfer in CU men’s basketball history and certainly will play a key role in the Buffs’ late drive to climb the Pac-12 standings.
“When we recruited Jeriah, we watched film of him at Tulsa,” Boyle said. “We talked to people who knew him in Kansas City growing up as a high school player and AAU player. We tried to run as many traps as we could to make sure we knew what we were getting. And we knew we were getting a guy who could make shots and could stretch the defense. Could rebound the ball.
“But yeah, has he been better than advertised? I’d say yes. I don’t want to say a pleasant surprise, because we recruit guys with the expectation they’re going to be able to come in and do what they’re supposed to do. But when they do it, and they do it in a game like (USC) when the stakes are so high, it’s really a blessing. I’m proud of Jeriah. It’s not easy coming in to a new program, a new situation, new teammates, new community, new university, and adjust as quickly as he has. It’s a testament to his maturity, his character, and his adaptability.”
Horne averaged 11.1 points last year at Tulsa, shooting .413 overall and .339 from 3-point range. He shot a career-best .374 from 3-point range during the 2018-19 season, but he has surpassed those numbers by a wide margin this season with the Buffs.
After torching USC, Horne owns an overall shooting percentage of .507 while shooting .459 from 3-point range. Horne is on track to post one of the top single-season 3-point percentages in program history, with his current mark ranking a few fractions ahead of George King’s No. 2 all-time total from the 2015-16 season (.456). Horne also is averaging a career-best 5.8 rebounds per game and is on pace to produce one of the top-10 scoring seasons by a transfer in team history.
During the Bay Area trip two weeks ago, Horne was just 2-for-6 on 3-pointers while scoring just 17 points combined in the two games. In the three games since, Horne has gone 9-for-16 on 3-pointers and has emerged as a candidate for the Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year award.
“I feel like that’s the most important part, the mentality of this season. When we have some bad games and we don’t play up to that potential that we know we’re capable of playing, we just continue to work,” Horne said. “We know what we’re capable of. Nights like this (against USC), we’ve shown that. At the end of the season, it’s most important. So continuing to keep that mentality, that togetherness, the camaraderie, and just playing like it’s our last game. Because for the seniors, it really is. We’re just giving it all we have.”
UCLA Bruins at CU Buffs men’s basketball
TIPOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m., CU Events Center.
BROADCAST: TV — ESPN2; Radio — KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.
RECORDS: UCLA 17-5, 13-3 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 18-7, 12-6.
COACHES: UCLA — Mick Cronin, 2nd season (36-17, 401-188 overall). Colorado — Tad Boyle, 11th season (228-141, 284-207 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: UCLA — G Johnny Juzang, So., 14.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg; G/F Jaime Jaquez, So., 12.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg; G Tyger Campbell, R-So., 10.9 ppg, 5.6 apg. Colorado — G McKinley Wright IV, Sr., 14.5 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.2 rpg; F Jeriah Horne, G-Sr., 11.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, .459 3-point percentage; F Evan Battey, R-Jr., 9.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg; G/F D’Shawn Schwartz, Sr., 8.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg.
WHAT TO WATCH: The Bruins have been much improved on defense under Cronin, but they could be vulnerable to a hot-shooting night by the Buffs. UCLA enters the game ranked fourth in overall defensive field goal percentage in Pac-12 games (.438) but just 10th in defensive 3-point percentage (.379).
NOTES: UCLA has won the past three matchups against the Buffs, including a 65-62 win in Los Angeles on Jan. 2…Four players scored in double figures for the Buffs, but CU finished just 6-for-23 on 3-pointers…In his past two games against the Buffs, UCLA’s Tyger Campbell has posted 18 assists with only three turnovers…The Bruins defeated Utah on Thursday night for their fourth consecutive win…Utah didn’t attempt a single free throw in the game, marking just the second time in the past 40 years a UCLA opponent has gone without a free throw attempt…CU’s win on Thursday against USC bumped the Buffs up eight spots to No. 16 in Friday’s NET rankings…The Buffs are scheduled to complete the regular season on Thursday against Arizona State (TBD, ESPN2 or ESPNU).