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CU Buffs men’s basketball notes: Road prowess powers fourth-place finish

Career-high five assists pleases Jabari Walker more than double-double

SALT LAKE CITY, UT -  MARCH 5: Jabari Walker #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes grabs a rebound away from Riley Battin #11 and Both Gach #2 of the Utah Utes during the first half of their game March 5, 2022 at the Jon M Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – MARCH 5: Jabari Walker #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes grabs a rebound away from Riley Battin #11 and Both Gach #2 of the Utah Utes during the first half of their game March 5, 2022 at the Jon M Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Back in November, this appeared to be one of the least likely Colorado men’s basketball teams that would make program history months later.

Yet that’s exactly what the Buffaloes achieved on Saturday.

The most important aspect of CU’s 84-71 victory at Utah on Saturday was the fourth-place finish it secured for the Buffs in the Pac-12 Conference.

Yet the Buffs also reached a few historical marks as well. The win gave CU a 6-4 record in true road games, marking the first time a CU team has posted a winning record in road games since the 1968-69 Big Eight Conference champion squad. Since all of CU’s true road games this season were within the conference, it is the first time a Buffs team has posted a winning road record within league play since 1963-64.

Finally, Saturday’s win was CU’s fourth consecutive road win, the first time the Buffs’ have achieved that feat since the Chauncey Billups-led squad of 1996-97.

“The biggest thing I challenged our players to do before the game was that we were 5-4 on the road coming into this game. A Colorado basketball team has never had a winning record on the road since 1969,” Boyle said. “I told our guys that. I said ‘Guys, you can do something no team has done in 53 years.’ That’s pretty darn special to be in that position. That resonated with them.

“We have a lot of ‘Thought for the days’ during the season and throughout the year. One of them is ‘If you want to leave your footprints in the sands of time, you better bring your work boots.’ I said guys, let’s put our work boots on and go to work. And they did.”

‘Steph’ Battey

Senior forward Evan Battey continued his long-range assault, establishing a new career high for made 3-pointers while going 6-for-9. Battey hit his first three attempts from long range and eventually finished with a career-high 27 points.

Battey went just 11-for-50 on 3-pointers during his first three seasons at CU, but Saturday’s effort pushed his Pac-12-leading 3-point percentage to .521. Battey has gone 15-for-20 (.750) from the arc over the past five games.

“It’s all about work. It’s all about work ethic,” Battey said. “Getting shots up every day after practice. It’s all about getting reps up.”

Helping hand

Double-doubles are becoming somewhat routine for Jabari Walker, who posted his Pac-12-leading 16th double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds. This time, Walker added a career-high five assists, a feat that gave the sophomore forward a smile during his postgame interview.

“That was the best feeling, rather than setting a career high (scoring) or getting the most rebounds,” Walker said. “Five assists, I want to do that more. That felt great. It took me back to my younger days. I used to play point guard and I know my IQ is high, but I just didn’t understand why I was turning the ball over at a high rate. I’m still working on that. I see ways that I can create for other people and I see my game heading in that direction. But I know my IQ can create that game, and I’m just so excited for my ceiling.”

Walker’s previous career-high in assists was three, which he reached in three different games. Saturday’s effort also was Walker’s fifth 20-point game of the season.

“The most impressive stat on the stat sheet to me tonight is Jabari Walker’s five assists,” Boyle said. “That shows such growth in his game. Because he’s getting a lot of attention by opposing defenses because he scores the ball so well, and obviously he rebounds well. For him to be able to make plays for others, he really is growing up and coming into his own.”

Status quo

Boyle opted to roll with the same starting lineup utilized during last week’s upset win against No. 2 Arizona, specifically giving freshman Julian Hammond III his second consecutive start at point guard.

Like during the Arizona win, Keeshawn Barthelemy and KJ Simpson ultimately played more minutes than Hammond, who knocked down a 3-pointer and recorded three assists. Yet Boyle appreciated the stability Hammond brought to the starting unit against Arizona, and he didn’t want to tinker with a mix that led to a win against the nation’s second-ranked team.

“It worked. All those guys are going to play,” Boyle said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

On the mend

Although he still is not cleared to participate in full contact drills or five-on-five scrimmages, injured freshman Quincy Allen has been cleared to participate in individual drills and practiced with the Buffs this past week in a limited capacity.

Allen, a four-star prospect and a key part of a 2021 CU recruiting class ranked atop the Pac-12, has not played the entire season after suffering an offseason hip injury that required surgery.

“No contact, but he’s able to shoot and get out there, work on his dribbling and shooting. It’s good to have him back,” Boyle said. “I don’t know when he’ll be able to go live, but he’s getting closer.

“To me, the challenge for him is on him to stay dialed-in mentally. At this point in the season it’s hard to maybe give him the attention he deserves. So he’s got to be really, in practice, present. We’ll see when the season’s over with what he’s picked up, what he hasn’t picked up. I’ll know the answer to that as we start into our offseason program this spring and summer.”


CU scored 50 points in the first half, its highest-scoring half of the season. It was the Buffs’ first 50-point half since a game in Utah three years ago, but that half-century total occurred in the second half of a loss after the Buffs managed just 19 points in the first half…CU’s nine turnovers was its second-lowest total of the season. Its 18 assists was the third-highest total of the season…The Buffs’ 14 3-pointers tied the team record for the most in a road game, which they previously reached at Air Force on Nov. 24, 2018.

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