Like the Nebraska exhibition game, the Colorado men’s basketball team got off to a fast start in the season opener against UC Riverside.
But in what could be a familiar sight for Buffaloes fans this season, when the CU starters cooled, the reserves were more than ready to pick up the slack.
CU began its 2022-23 campaign on Monday night with an 82-66 victory against UC Riverside at the CU Events Center. Depth has been one of the biggest strengths touted by the Buffs throughout the preseason, and it was on display against the Highlanders.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in all 10 of those guys,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “And I’ve got confidence in some guys on the bench who aren’t playing. It’s just hard to play more than 10 guys and get a flow going. Sometimes as a player it’s hard to go in there and not get a little rhythm going. We tried to let guys play through mistakes and I tried not to have too quick of a hook. But as we turn the ball over, that’s the one thing with this team I’m going to keep a sharp eye on. I don’t want guys turning it over multiple times.
“But, our bench is going to be key for this team as the season unfolds.”
CU’s bench outscored Riverside’s reserves 32-19 while shooting .542 from the floor (13-for-24). Yale graduate transfer Jalen Gabbidon led that effort with 12 points in his CU debut, going 4-for-5 from the floor and 4-for-6 at the free throw line. Sophomore guard Julian Hammond III went 3-for-5 with six points and a career-high-matching five rebounds, while Luke O’Brien grabbed six rebounds, including three offensive boards.
Redshirt freshman Javon Ruffin, who also made his debut after missing last season due to a knee injury, went 3-for-5 with seven points, one assist and no turnovers in nearly 14 minutes.
“I’ve been around college basketball a lot, and I’ve played a lot of games against high-level teams, and in practice on any given day anyone can be unstoppable,” Gabbidon said. “To have that asset of depth is huge for us. Coach says to put it all out there in the time you have, because we have the depth.”
Boyle opted to go with the same starting lineup he used during the exhibition win against Nebraska—KJ Simpson and Nique Clifford in the backcourt, J’Vonne Hadley and Tristan da Silva at forward, and Lawson Lovering at center.
Lovering finished just 1-for-7 from the field, but he also recorded three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot in nearly 22 minutes.
“Lawson is just trying to go a little bit too quick right now,” Boyle said. “He’s going to be fine. He’s going to be a weapon for us down there, no doubt. Lawson’s value to this team, a lot of people may not see it, is on the defensive end. He’ll have better nights than he had tonight.”
Monday’s attendance of 5,388 was the lowest for a home opener in Boyle’s 13 seasons as CU’s coach (not counting the no-fans season of 2020-21). The previous Boyle-era low attendance for a home opener was 5,695 against Drake to start the 2018-19 season. Monday’s mark was the lowest for a home opener since CU drew 5,086 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the final pre-Boyle season of 2009-10…Former Buffs guard Keeshawn Barthelemy got the starting assignment on Monday in his first game with No. 21 Oregon, going 4-for-10 overall and 2-for-8 on 3-pointers in the Ducks’ rout of Florida A&M…CU improved to 96-24 in home openers, with wins in 15 in a row.