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Road woes: Poor defense, turnovers thwart Colorado men’s basketball at Grambling State

Colorado's KJ Simpson, center, drives toward the lane against Grambling State on Friday night in Grambling, La. (University of Colorado Athletics/courtesy photo)
Colorado’s KJ Simpson, center, drives toward the lane against Grambling State on Friday night in Grambling, La. (University of Colorado Athletics/courtesy photo)
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GRAMBLING, La. — One play pretty much summed up the entire evening for the Colorado men’s basketball team.

Already down big at Grambling State, the Buffaloes on Friday had an opportunity to turn some defense into offense when a turnover led to a breakaway dunk opportunity for Luke O’Brien.

O’Brien, however, was thwarted upon launch of his dunk attempt by a wet spot on the floor. The junior slipped, and two certain points instead turned into a turnover while O’Brien limped off to nurse a sore ankle.

O’Brien eventually returned, but that was about the only good news for the Buffs on Friday night. The Tigers treated a surprisingly sparse crowd at the Hobdy Assembly Center to a torrid shooting performance at the expense of the Colorado defense, ultimately handing the Buffs an 83-74 defeat.

“We didn’t play with the effort, the intensity, the tenacity, the toughness that we needed to play with out of the gate,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Grambling was the more aggressive team and they played like they wanted to win more than we did. We played like we expected them to roll over and bow down to us. I don’t know what our guys were thinking in that regard, but we weren’t good enough on either side of the ball.”

Colorado's Nique Clifford works on the perimeter against Grambling State on Friday night in Grambling, La. (University of Colorado Athletics/courtesy photo)
Colorado’s Nique Clifford works on the perimeter against Grambling State on Friday night in Grambling, La. (University of Colorado Athletics/courtesy photo)

Grambling State led throughout the contest, finishing with an overall shooting percentage of .500 while going 7-for-17 on 3-pointers. Even after the poor start, CU was unable to get key stops when they might have made a difference. For instance, eight consecutive points by the Buffs late in the first half gave CU an opportunity to go into halftime trailing by just 11, but instead they allowed Grambling’s Shawndarius Cowart get free for a 3-pointer that instead gave the Tigers a 14-point lead at the break.

“We just weren’t ready,” CU forward Tristan da Silva said. “They basically out-competed us for the entire first half. We put ourselves in a tough spot. We let them get rolling, get their confidence up, get their rhythm going. If you play against any team that has talent, it’s going to be hard to fight back from being down (19) in the first half.”

Offensively the Buffs never got into a rhythm due to 19 turnovers, a total gained by a balanced team effort — three players had three, and three others had two. CU also struggled from 3-point range (5-for-21). The Buffs shot decently otherwise, finishing with an overall field goal percentage of .403, but the turnovers prevented Colorado from getting into any sort of offensive rhythm.

CU cut the deficit to seven points in the waning moments, but got no closer.

The result was particularly deflating given how the five-game road trip only gets more difficult moving forward. After the game, the Buffs flew to Nashville, where they will take on No. 11 Tennessee on Sunday. CU then moves on to South Carolina, where the Buffs play three games in the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

“Nineteen turnovers, and 50% field goal percentage defense. You combine that, and you’re not going to win against anybody,” Boyle said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, or where you’re playing. You’ve got to take care of the ball and great shots. We had 19 times we didn’t even get a shot, much less a great shot. We talked about it that we needed 11 turnovers or less, and if we guard the way we’re capable of guarding, we can win this game. We didn’t do either one of those.”

Snapshot: CU Buffs at Grambling State

Turning point: The Buffs trimmed a 14-point halftime deficit to nine midway through the second half, but Grambling responded with a 10-2 run that essentially squashed the comeback bid.

Buff of the game: Nique Clifford went 7-for-12 with 15 points, six rebounds, two assists and a career-high three steals.

What’s next: The road trip only gets tougher, as the Buffs face No. 11 Tennessee on Sunday in Nashville (noon MT, ESPN).

Grambling St. 83, Colorado 74
COLORADO (1-1)

da Silva 1-7 2-2 4, Lovering 0-2 1-2 1, Clifford 7-11 0-0 15, Hadley 4-8 4-6 12, Simpson 5-16 3-4 16, Gabbidon 5-9 1-2 11, Hammond 1-5 3-3 6, O’Brien 1-1 2-2 4, Wright 1-3 1-2 3, Ruffin 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 25-62 19-25 74.

GRAMBLING STATE (2-0)

Gordon 5-9 4-8 14, Lamin 1-1 0-0 2, Christon 4-7 10-13 18, Cotton 1-6 0-0 3, Cowart 6-12 6-8 20, Lewis 5-9 2-2 15, J.Smith 3-5 0-0 6, Aku 0-0 1-2 1, Munford 1-3 1-2 4. Totals 26-52 24-35 83.

Halftime — Grambling St. 46-32. 3-point field goals — Colorado 5-21 (Simpson 3-8, Hammond 1-2, Clifford 1-4, Gabbidon 0-1, Wright 0-1, da Silva 0-5), Grambling St. 7-17 (Lewis 3-6, Cowart 2-2, Munford 1-2, Cotton 1-3, Gordon 0-1, J.Smith 0-1, Christon 0-2). Fouled out — Clifford. Rebounds — Colorado 37 (Hadley 8), Grambling St. 33 (Cowart 7). Assists — Colorado 12 (Simpson, Hammond 3), Grambling St. 14 (Cotton, Cowart 4). Total fouls — Colorado 21, Grambling St. 21. A — 837.

 

 

 

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