ST. THOMAS, US Virgin Islands — Shaky starts were a trait of the Colorado men’s basketball team over the first week of the season.
The Buffaloes finally put together the kind of start they wanted on Friday in the opening round of the Paradise Jam. It was the rest of the contest that doomed the Buffs.
After dominating the first seven minutes, CU was unable to slow a long-range onslaught from Southern Illinois, as the Salukis handed the Buffs a 67-63 defeat in the first round of the Paradise Jam at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center.
Not only does the loss relegate the Buffs to the consolation bracket, but it eliminates the possibility of a third-game showdown against Colorado State, which won the day’s opening game against Bradley. Instead, CU will play Duquesne on Saturday (3:45 p.m. MT, ESPN3).
“This game was not a win because we did not defend the 3-point line, which was a key to the game defensively for us, and we didn’t do a good enough job on (Lance) Jones and (Marcus) Domask, which was a big part of the game plan,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “It needed to be a team effort against those guys. And, individually, we had to take a challenge.”
CU jumped to a 12-1 lead and held Southern Illinois without a field goal for nearly the first seven minutes of the game. But the Salukis hardly missed after that early cold snap, finishing 12-for-29 on 3-pointers with a .449 overall shooting percentage. The Salukis didn’t hit their first field goal until the 13 minute, 13 second mark of the first half, but from there they outscored the Buffs 26-7 over the remainder of the half to take a 27-19 lead at the break.
Despite a dry spell during the first half — the Buffs hit their first five shots but went 3-for-19 the remainder of the period — CU went 17-for-26 in the second half and finished with a solid overall shooting percentage of .500. But the Buffs couldn’t get key stops at critical junctures.
SIU never trailed throughout the second half, and every time CU cut its deficit to three or four points, the Salukis responded with clutch 3-pointers. The final shot of those salvos was a desperation, beyond-NBA-range 3-pointer from SIU’s Steven Verplancken, who retrieved the ball from the backcourt after a CU deflection before connecting off the glass at the shot clock buzzer.
CU still remained within two points with 1:34 to go, but the Salukis scored the next seven points to pull away.
“We went 25-for-50 from the field and turned it over 11 times. That’s good enough to win a game,” Boyle said. “Now, the pace of the game was to their advantage. But we have to learn to win in a half-court game.”
CU forwards Jabari Walker and Evan Battey both missed a significant portion of the first half due to foul trouble, which was a critical loss as the duo combined to finish 11-for-15 from the field. Tristan da Silva matched a career-high with 15 points, but after that trio, two of whom were forced into limited minutes, the Buffs struggled to get meaningful offensive contributions. Point guard Keeshawn Barthelemy finished with 12 points, but he went 4-for-11 from the field and 2-for-5 at the free throw line.
“One of the keys was take away threes, and we gave up too many threes,” Walker said. “They have a lot of good shooters and played physical with us. Knocked down open shots, made the right plays. They’re a good team. I think we got good shots from three, but our offensive plan was to attack on the inside. We just have to focus on the defensive end, and we couldn’t get the stops.”
What went right: CU shot .500 (25-for-50) and committed only 11 turnovers.
What went wrong: SIU shot .571 in the second half (12-for-21), which included a 7-for-12 mark on 3-pointers.
Star of the game: Tristan da Silva. With fellow forwards Jabari Walker and Evan Battey battling foul trouble, da Silva matched a career-high with 15 points and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
What’s next: Relegated to the consolation bracket, the Buffs will try to bounce back on Saturday afternoon against Duquesne (3:45 p.m. MT, ESPN3).
S. Illinois 67, Colorado 63
S. ILLINOIS (2-1)
Domask 6-12 3-6 17, Filewich 0-3 3-4 3, Banks 0-2 5-6 5, Jones 5-13 0-0 14, Verplancken 7-10 0-0 18, Coupet 2-6 0-0 6, Muila 2-2 0-0 4, D’Avanzo 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-49 11-16 67.
Battey 5-6 1-2 12, Walker 6-9 4-4 16, da Silva 6-10 2-4 15, Barthelemy 4-11 2-5 12, Parquet 1-5 0-0 2, Clifford 2-4 0-0 4, Simpson 0-3 0-0 0, Lovering 0-0 0-0 0, O’Brien 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 25-50 9-15 63.
Halftime — S. Illinois 27-19. 3-point goals — S. Illinois 12-29 (Verplancken 4-7, Jones 4-11, Coupet 2-4, Domask 2-5, Banks 0-2), Colorado 4-14 (Barthelemy 2-4, Battey 1-2, da Silva 1-2, Clifford 0-1, Parquet 0-1, Simpson 0-2, Walker 0-2). Fouled out — Coupet, Muila. Rebounds — S. Illinois 27 (Filewich 5), Colorado 27 (da Silva 7). Assists — S. Illinois 11 (Domask 3), Colorado 11 (Parquet 4). Total fouls — S. Illinois 18, Colorado 16. A — 842 (3,000).