Defense, rebounding propel CU Buffs men’s basketball past Mines in preseason opener

Buffs dominate despite struggling from 3-point range

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's K.J. Simpson drives on Colorado School of Mines' Kobi Betts. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's Nique Clifford shoots over Colorado School of Mines' Kobi Betts. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's Evan Battey goes to the basket on Colorado School of Mines' Adam Krasovec. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's K.J.Simpson drives past Colorado School of Mines' Kobi Betts. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Colorado sophomore Nique Clifford will aim for another strong showing during Saturday afternoon's home battle against New Mexico. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    University of Colorado, Boulder's Elijah Parquet drives on Colorado School of Mines' Trent Dykema (3).

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's K.J. Simpson drives on Colorado School of Mines' Kobi Betts. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    University of Colorado, Boulder's Elijah Parquet steals the ball from Colorado School of Mines' Titus Reed.

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's Jabari Walker shoots over Colorado School of Mines' Justin Engesser. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's K.J.Simpson drives on Colorado School of Mines' Kobi Betts. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's Julian Hammond III gets around Colorado School of Mines' Riley Schroeder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's Jabari Walker drives on Colorado School of Mines' Titus Reed. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's Julian Hammond III gets around Colorado School of Mines' Riley Schroeder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's Keeshawn Barthelemy shoots over Colorado School of Mines' Kobi Betts. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's Jabari Walker goes strong to the basket against Colorado School of Mines' Titus Reed. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's Jabari Walker shoots over Colorado School of Mines' Brendan Sullivan. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • University of Colorado, Boulder's Keeshawn Barthelemy drives past Colorado School of Mines' Kobi Betts. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

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Someday, if the latest crop of highly-touted freshmen eventually compiles a similar resume to the group that left the Colorado program last spring, they might share a collective laugh at how humbly it all began on a Wednesday night against a Division II team.

Still, it was the Buffaloes’ veterans who set the opening night tone.

The CU men’s basketball team put together a solid but predictably flawed opening performance before a CU Events Center crowd enthused to be back in the building, topping Colorado Mines 78-48 in a preseason exhibition game. The Buffs will complete their exhibition schedule on Sunday with a charity contest at Nebraska.

“I thought we did some really good things,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Defensively, I was really pleased. We had a couple breakdowns in the first half. We talked about things at halftime, and our guys went out and really tried to do what we talked about.

“I think there’s some really good things. Our young guys, they’re going to have to grow up quick, and I think tonight was a step in the right direction in doing that, and it was an opportunity to learn.”

Boyle opted to go with his five most experienced players to fill out the starting lineup, going with Keeshawn Barthelemy and Elijah Parquet in the backcourt alongside a big frontcourt featuring the 6-foot-8 Evan Battey, 6-foot-9 Jabari Walker, and 6-foot-10 Tristan da Silva.

That unit helped stake the Buffs to an early lead they never surrendered against the No. 5-ranked Division II team in the nation. CU shot the ball decently overall (.412) despite struggling to a 2-for-17 mark on 3-pointers.

Defensively, the Buffs were on-point from the opening tip, holding Mines to a .279 mark from the field with a 6-for-29 showing on 3-pointers. The Orediggers shot just .257 (9-for-35) in the second half. CU also outrebounded the Orediggers 56-36.

“We’re going to need that a lot this year,” Battey said. “We’re struggling some nights, and (defense and rebounding) travels. Always. I’ve been three years in the program, and I know how defense and rebounding translates and wins us games. I’m going to keep preaching it to my guys.”

A CU freshman class ranked as the top recruiting class in the Pac-12 Conference offered mixed reviews while playing before a crowd of 2,406 in their first showing on their new home floor.

Guard KJ Simpson wowed the crowd with a late breakaway dunk to cap a 12-point, five-rebound effort. Simpson shot 4-for-9 and made all three of his free throw attempts. Seven-foot-one Lawson Lovering showed a willingness to mix it up inside while posting 10 points and nine rebounds, and freshman guard Julian Hammond III finished with three points, four rebounds, and a pair of steals.

“I’ve never played with that many fans in the arena before,” Simpson said. “The atmosphere was crazy. And I’m pretty sure the other freshmen felt it too, the first-game jitters playing in front of a big crowd like that, a home game. It was an exhibition game, but it felt like a real game.”

Colorado 78, Colorado Mines 48

Colorado Mines

Sullivan 2-10 0-0 5, Barr 2-8 2-3 6, Reed 2-9 0-0 6, Betts 5-16 0-0 10, Boone 4-8 2-2 11, Krasovec 0-0 0-0 0, Engesser 0-3 0-0 0, Schroeder 1-3 0-0 3, O’Leary 0-1 0-0 0, Dykema 3-7 0-0 7, Spurlock 0-2 0-0 0, Pressly 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-68 4-5 48.

Colorado

Walker 3-9 0-0 6, Battey 4-8 2-2 10, da Silva 2-4 3-3 7, Barthelemy 4-11 0-0 9, Parquet 3-4 1-2 7, Simpson 4-9 3-3 12, Clifford 2-4 2-2 6, Lovering 3-7 4-7 10, O’Brien 1-3 2-3 4, Hammond 0-3 3-4 3, Ruffin 0-0 0-0 0, Loughlin 0-1 0-0 0, Ersek 0-1 0-0 0, Mains 2-2 0-0 4, Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Pease 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-68 20-26 78.

Halftime: Colorado 35, Colorado Mines 27. 3-point field goals — Colorado Mines 6-29 (Reed 2-6, Sullivan 1-6, Barr 0-1, Boone 1-3, Betts 0-4, Engesser 0-2, Schroeder 1-3, Dykema 1-2, Spurlock 0-1, Pressly 0-1); Colorado 2-17 (Barthelemy 1-5, Simpson 1-2, Walker 0-2, Battey 0-2, Parquet 0-1, Clifford 0-1, O’Brien 0-2, Hammond 0-1, Ersek 0-1). Rebounds — Colorado Mines 36 (Barr 6); Colorado 56 (Lovering 9). Assists — Colorado Mines 10 (Barr 4); Colorado 11 (Barthelemy 3). Turnovers — Colorado Mines 15; Colorado 10. A — 2,406.