The Colorado men’s basketball team has operated the entire season with 12 scholarship players, one fewer than the full allotment.
The Buffaloes also have been forced to watch two of the top figures in the team’s vaunted recruiting class, Quincy Allen and Javon Ruffin, remain sidelined due to injury. A third freshman, guard KJ Simpson, was unavailable on Sunday due to a concussion he suffered three days earlier against Washington State.
Yet despite those setbacks, the Buffs are a team that counts depth as a strength. Julian Hammond III and Luke O’Brien showed why that is the case during CU’s 78-64 win against Washington at the CU Events Center.
Hammond, again filling in for Simpson, enjoyed the finest game of his young career against the Huskies. And while O’Brien didn’t score a point, his contributions nonetheless were critical as the Buffs steadily pulled away from UW.
“We had good minutes from Luke O’Brien,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Julian Hammond played good minutes off the bench. Nique Clifford continues to come along. The depth of this team is starting to grow up.”
Hammond came up big after Simpson was sidelined on Thursday against WSU, finishing with five rebounds, four assists, and four steals in 14 minutes. Against UW on Sunday, it was Hammond’s shooting touch that provided a lift for CU. Hammond went 4-for-4 on 3-pointers before finishing with a season-high 14 points.
O’Brien went scoreless, but in nine first-half minutes the sophomore from Columbine contributed four assists and three rebounds in only nine minutes. O’Brien finished with five rebounds and a career-high four assists and also provided two impressive hustle plays — first batting a potential offensive rebound off a UW player before the ball bounced out-of-bounds, and later grabbing an offensive rebound off a missed free throw.
“(Hammond) does this consistently at practice,” CU’s Jabari Walker said. “It’s no surprise when it comes to game time. He can take over a practice hitting three 3s in a row, getting everyone involved. He’s like a glue guy. He does everything you need from the point guard position.”
As he did earlier in the week, Boyle downplayed the milestone 300th career victory he picked up on Sunday. Including his four seasons as the head coach at Northern Colorado, Boyle is 300-212 overall and 244-146 in his 11-plus seasons at CU. Boyle is on track to break Sox Walseth’s program record of 261 wins early next season.
“All it means is I’ve coached good players and had good assistant coaches,” Boyle said. “I’m very fortunate to be the head coach at Colorado. But our players, you don’t get wins without good players. We’ve got to continue to recruit, and we’ve got great kids from great families. We’ve got to continue that mantra as we progress. But it’s just a number.”
CU outscored Washington 38-20 in the paint…UW’s Cole Bajema, formerly a transfer from Michigan, began the Huskies’ road trip with a 3-for-19 mark on 3-pointers this season. But Bajema went 5-for-8 on threes in a win at Utah, and followed that with a 6-for-7 showing against the Buffs, giving him an 11-for-15 road trip…Despite his career-best 22 points, sophomore Tristan da Silva also had four of CU’s 14 turnovers and has committed seven turnovers in the past two games…With five points and four rebounds, CU senior Evan Battey matched Austin Dufault for 32nd on CU’s all-time scoring list (1,076) and tied Scott Wilke for 26th on the all-time rebounding list (576).