Jalen Gabbidon very soon will be back in action.
Whether that happens on Sunday afternoon, when Colorado hosts Washington State (4 p.m., ESPNU) in a Pac-12 Conference battle, remains to be seen. Regardless, the former Yale standout is set to return to the action soon after missing the past six games due to a right knee injury suffered on Dec. 29 at Stanford.
With Gabbidon averaging 6.0 points a game while struggling on 3-pointers (.296) and at the free throw line (.688), he probably won’t provide an answer to the Buffaloes’ struggling offense. Yet as a fifth-year player and a former Defensive Player of the Year in the Ivy League, Gabbidon brings a different presence to the floor that CU head coach Tad Boyle believes has been lacking in his absence.
The Buffs played very well defensively in several games without Gabbidon, particularly at UCLA and at home against the Oregon schools. But Colorado also surrendered the top two opponent field goal percentages of the season with Gabbidon sidelined — at Cal (.580) and Thursday against Washington (.540), both losses.
“Jalen brings a voice. He brings leadership and he brings energy,” Boyle said. “We need more voices on the floor. We need more energy on the floor. And we need more defensive presence and leadership. We missed him.”
After practice on Saturday, Boyle said he was “hopeful” Gabbidon would be ready to play against the Cougars.
Colorado began Sunday at No. 67 in the NET rankings and No. 55 at KenPom.com. Washington State is No. 74 in the NET and No. 67 at KenPom…CU is forcing 14.4 turnovers per game, the second-most in the Pac-12. However, the Buffs are just 1-5 this season when forcing at least 18 turnovers and 0-2 when forcing at least 20…None of the current Buffs players have fared well against WSU. The six CU players who have played against the Cougars — Nique Clifford, Tristan da Silva, Julian Hammond III, Lawson Lovering, Luke O’Brien and KJ Simpson — have shot a combined .292 (14-for-48) against WSU…The Cougars at the top 3-point shooting team in the Pac-12 (.364) but went 6-for-23 from the arc (.261) during a loss on Thursday at Utah.