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Tristan da Silva looks to keep standout season going as CU Buffs host Utah Valley in NIT

Colorado forward Tristan da Silva leads the Buffaloes into an NIT second-round game against Utah Valley. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Colorado forward Tristan da Silva leads the Buffaloes into an NIT second-round game against Utah Valley. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

In three seasons at Colorado, Tristan da Silva, a native of Germany, has indulged in a crash course in the program’s history.

As the most consistent asset in a wildly inconsistent season for the CU men’s basketball team, da Silva has become part of that history.

A first team All-Pac-12 selection, da Silva and the Buffs hope to keep their season going at least one more game when they take on Utah Valley on Sunday at the CU Events Center in the second round of the NIT.

Already enjoying a season that will be recalled among the best in program history, the more da Silva can keep playing, the higher he can climb a few of those single-season lists. Although that won’t be the primary goal in CU’s first matchup against the high-scoring Wolverines.

“Definitely an honor. It’s just also kind of humbling to see the people on (these) lists,” da Silva said. “I’m pretty sure I know most of those names on there. There might be some older ones I’m not quite as familiar with. But definitely it’s crazy to think about and I’m just happy for the year that I’ve had so far. I hope it keeps going for a little bit longer.

“You kind of appreciate it more knowing the season could be over now. But you’re still playing. You’re still practicing. You’re still on the same (team) as all the guys here. You kind of don’t want it to stop. It definitely gives another little edge.”

Da Silva takes a 16.0 scoring average into Sunday’s matchup, the sixth-best mark in the 13-season era of head coach Tad Boyle. Da Silva is a big game or two away from surpassing Cory Higgins (16.1 in 2010-11) and Josh Scott (16.3 in 2015-16) on that list.

With 544 points this season, da Silva is tied for 15th among CU’s all-time single-season points leaders. If he scores at least 12 points against Utah Valley, da Silva would pass both Richard Roby (545 points in 2007-08) and Chauncey Billups (555 points in 1996-97). Despite a sub-par shooting game overall in CU’s first-round win against Seton Hall (5-for-16), da Silva finished 3-for-6 on 3-pointers, pushing his season percentage from long range to .406. That ranks sixth among CU’s single-season leaders heading into Sunday’s game.

Da Silva has reached double-figure points in 17 of the past 19 games, and his 11 games with at least 20 points is the most by a CU player since Derrick White posted 15 20-point games in 2016-17. And yet, as always, da Silva understands getting an opportunity to continue building on those offensive numbers will require a strong defensive game against the visiting Wolverines.

“We’ve just got to play a solid all-around game and defend them for sure,” said da Silva, owner of exactly 900 career points. “Their three starting guards are really, really good. They create a lot of offense for each other, for themselves, and for their big man. We’ve got to make sure we keep them a little big in check. That’s one of our main keys.”

Those starting guards for Utah Valley — Le’Tre Darthard, Justin Harmon and Trey Woodbury — average a combined 41 points per game and about 10 assists per game. Harmon scored a career-high 32 points in the Wolverines’ NIT first-round win at New Mexico on Wednesday, while 7-foot center Aziz Bandaogo was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year and ranks third nationally with 99 blocked shots.

“We’d better guard them, because they’re an efficient offensive team,” Boyle said. “Which makes them hard to guard. They run good stuff. They run it at a good pace. It’s going to be a challenge on both sides of the ball for us.”

Utah Valley Wolverines at CU Buffs men’s basketball

TIPOFF: Sunday, 7:30 p.m., CU Events Center.

TV/RADIO: TV — ESPNU. Radio — KOA 850 AM or 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Utah Valley 26-8 (15-3 WAC); Colorado 18-16 (8-12 Pac-12).

COACHES: Utah Valley — Mark Madsen, 4th season (68-50 at UVU and overall). Colorado — Tad Boyle, 13th season (272-171, 328-237 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Utah Valley — G Le’Tre Darthard, 6-4, Jr. (14.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, .365 3%, .899 FT%); G Justin Harmon, 6-4, Jr. (13.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.4 apg, .453 FG%); G Trey Woodbury, 6-4, Sr. (13.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.5 apg . 397 3%); C Aziz Bandaogo, 7-0, So. (11.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.9 bpg, .605 FG%); F Tim Fuller, 6-9, Sr. (6.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, .669 FG%). Colorado — F Tristan da Silva, 6-9, Jr. (16.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg, .499 FG%, .406 3%); G Julian Hammond III, 6-3, So. (6.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, .342 3%); F Luke O’Brien, 6-8, Jr. (6.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg); G Nique Clifford, 6-6, Jr. (5.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg).

NOTES: The winner will play fourth-seeded Cincinnati in the quarterfinals on either Tuesday or Wednesday. If the Buffs win, that game will be in Boulder. The Bearcats defeated Hofstra 79-65 in the second round on Saturday. … The Wolverines have set a program record with 28 wins. … Led by Bandaogo, Utah Valley leads the nation with 6.7 blocked shots per game. … The Buffs are seeking a second quarterfinal berth in the past four NITs. CU also reached the quarterfinals in 2019, and there was no NIT in 2020. … O’Brien has averaged 9.2 points and 8.0 rebounds in the past 11 games and is coming off a career-high 14-rebound performance against Seton Hall. … In the past four games starting in place of KJ Simpson (mono), Hammond has shot .512 overall (22-for-43) and 5-for-11 on 3-pointers while averaging 15.0 points and 4.5 assists. … The Buffs have hit 10 3-pointers in a game just four times this season, but have done so in each of the past two games.