Limited experience, big hearts could lead to more wild finishes for CU Buffs men’s hoops

Buffs complete Paradise Jam with first matchup against Brown

Colorado's Luke O'Brien goes up for a shot on Saturday against Duquesne at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.  (Courtesy photo/Paradise Jam)
Colorado’s Luke O’Brien goes up for a shot on Saturday against Duquesne at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. (Courtesy photo/Paradise Jam)
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ST. THOMAS, US Virgin Islands — Following a win that was far more stressful and challenging than expected, Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle had a message for Buffaloes fans.

Buck up. There likely will be plenty of those types of games this season.

The Buffs avoided disaster by rallying past Duquesne on Saturday night in CU’s second game at the Paradise Jam in the US Virgin Islands, using a 3-pointer from Tristan da Silva to force overtime and eventually pull away. With two overtime wins already within the first two weeks of the season, the Buffs’ new-look rotation could be in store for more finishes rough on the nervous system as CU completes its tropical road trip on Monday afternoon against Brown.

“I’ve just got to keep breathing deep,” Boyle said. “Improvement needs to start showing itself. Brown, not going to be an easy game. We’re going to be in a lot of games like (Duquesne). As fans that are following this team, it’s going to be an exciting team to watch as they grow and develop as the season unfolds. But at times it’s going to be a frustrating team to watch and coach.”

While the first two weeks have revealed plenty of shortcomings for Boyle and his staff to address — an offense that runs hot and cold to extremes, foul trouble early in games amid the frontcourt — perhaps none are more alarming than CU’s early struggles with its perimeter defense.

During Saturday’s overtime win, the Buffs allowed a Duquesne team that entered the game shooting .258 from long range to go 11-for-24 on 3-pointers (.458). It wasn’t an anomaly. In the season opener, Montana State went 12-for-30 (.400) from the arc. CU was better in the next two games, wins against New Mexico and Maine (a combined 11-for-44), but Southern Illinois torched the Buffs with a 12-for-29 performance (.414) in an opening loss at the Paradise Jam on Friday.

Brown is coming off a 65-62 win against Bradley on Saturday in which the Bears went 7-for-15 on 3-pointers.

“It’s just attention to detail,” Boyle said. “We really make a distinction in scouting reports for our players on who are shooters and who are drivers. If a driver on the scouting report makes a three, as long as it’s over a hand, that’s on the coaching staff. If it’s a shooter and he makes a three, that’s on the players.”

The game against Brown will end a six-games-in-two weeks stretch for the Buffs to open the season. The Paradise Jam finale also will complete a run of five games within 11 days for CU, which finally will have a stretch of focused practice time over Thanksgiving weekend ahead of the Pac-12 openers, first at home against Stanford and then at No. 2 UCLA.

“The off day is going to be good (Sunday),” CU senior forward Evan Battey said. “Just need to get ready, and get our minds ready for the most part. All I’m concerned about is getting wins. I’m trying to instill that mindset in my guys, because that’s the most important thing. I want my guys to experience what we did at the end of last year in the (NCAA) tournament. But we’ve got to win a lot more ball games.”

Brown Bears vs. CU Buffs men’s basketball

TIPOFF: Monday, 1:15 p.m. MT, UVI Sports and Fitness Center, St. Thomas.

BROADCAST: TV — ESPN3; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Brown 4-2; Colorado 4-1.

COACHES: Brown — Mike Martin, 10th season (112-126 at Brown and overall). Colorado — Tad Boyle, 12th season (237-144, 293-210 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Brown — G Kino Lilly, Fr., 12.3 ppg, .484 3-point percentage; G Paxson Wojcik, Jr., 11.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg; F Jaylan Gainey, Sr., 9.3 ppg, 5.0 ppg. Colorado — G Keeshawn Barthelemy, R-So., 17.0 ppg, 11-for-16 3-pointers; F Jabari Walker, So., 15.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg; F Evan Battey, R-Sr., 13.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg.

NOTES: The Buffs’ wild win on Saturday against Duquesne marked the first time CU has played two overtime games within its first five contests of the season since the 1996-97 campaign, when the Chauncey Billups-led Buffs opened the season with consecutive overtime wins against Drake and Auburn…CU has never played Brown, and this will be the Buffs’ first game against an Ivy League foe since a home win against Harvard on  Nov. 24, 2013…Brown is coming off a victory against Bradley and stayed within seven points of North Carolina in a road loss in its second game of the season…Through Saturday’s games, CU stood at No. 52 in the critical KenPom.com analytic rankings…This is the fourth place/sixth place game in the Paradise Jam tournament…Following the game, the Buffs will not play again until opening Pac-12 Conference play on Nov. 28 at home against Stanford (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).