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There is nowhere to go but up for the Buffs.
Colorado finished last in the Big 12 conference last season, so if they finish 11th, it will be a big accomplishment.
Unfortunately, it does not look like that is going to happen. The Big 12 is a tough conference, and the Buffs do not know how to be tough yet.
“This is what I tell the players: being tough isn’t punching somebody, being tough is responding under duress,” head coach Jeff Bzdelik said after the loss to Missouri last Saturday. “(Missouri) turned it up, and, for some reason, when teams turn it up, we melt.”
The Buffs are 9-11 overall, 1-5 in the Big 12. If they had maintained several of their halftime leads, they would be 14-6, 4-2.
They blew a halftime lead to New Orleans. There was less than five seconds left when Shaun Reynolds hit a layup and free throw to take away that Buff victory.
As any good coach knows, it should not have to come down to that buzzer beater.
“We have to play for forty minutes, forty minutes of hard-nose basketball,” Bzdelik said after the loss. “You have to put yourself in a position to win, and I think we have done that so far. Now it’s time to take the next step.”
The Buffs may or may not have taken the next step.
They went on to win the next three games, including a convincing 93-47 win over Grambling State before losing another halftime lead to Tulsa on Jan. 7.
Well, they did more than just lose that lead. They destroyed it.
CU was up 42-38 at the half. Tulsa outscored them 43-26 in the second to win 81-68 in the Coors Events Center.
“The lack of depth hurt us,” Bzdelik said after the game. “It is very difficult to go seven deep. We lost our legs and that affected our ability to score.”
The team has consistently shown trouble adjusting to Bzdelik’s offense, and bothh coach and players say the team has lost some confidence in the schemes when the shot clock is winding down.
While the team was blown out by No. 10 Texas A&M at the start of conference play, they edged past Nebraska with a newfound defensive power.
“It was not pretty offensively,” Bzdelik said after the Nebraska game. “Nebraska is a good defensive team, one of the best in the nation. However, I thought our defense was better than it has been.”
They came out swinging against No. 19 Texas and were up 37-28 at halftime. The Buffs lost it, though, and fell 67-69.
So much for going up.
After CU’s 56-72 loss to Kansas State, Bzdelik mentioned just a few things the Buffs needed to improve: turnovers, offensive rebounds, free throws and discipline.
And after the loss to Missouri, he added that maturity and playing the entire 40 minutes of the game were other things the team needed to improve.
On Tuesday, they traveled to Ames, Iowa.
They should have stayed home. They were up 22-15 at halftime, but were then outscored 42-19 in the second half.
They made about one of every four baskets in the second half and only about 50 percent of their free throws for the entire game. Freshman Cory Higgins had a commendable five steals, but leading scorer Richard Roby only had 13 points – the most for the Buffs that night. Rebounds were a non-factor and, as usual, the bench was too.
The Iowa State game was just a warm-up to Saturday’s battle against No. 2 Kansas.
The loss to Kansas State will seem like nothing compared to what a one-loss Kansas team could do if the Buffs cannot pull things together on offense and defense for a full 40 minutes.
Just as a note, Kansas got its first loss of the season on Wednesday against Kansas State. So now whatever mercy Kansas may have given to the poor Buffs has gone completely out the window.
Then CU gets both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, of which neither will be an easy ride, before going to Kansas to meet the Jayhawks again.
All that is left after that is a quick loop back around the conference. Hopefully, the team will keep their game going past halftime for CU fans.
Or maybe, just maybe, something crazy will happen. Distracted by their postseason hopes, Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Baylor and an Oklahoma or two might just let a Colorado team with a few more weeks of practice under their belt slip by.
If CU can put together a whole 40 minutes of play, they may just come away with that No. 10 spot in the Big 12.
Or maybe they can just focus on that No. 5 conference recruiting class by Rivals.com.
Either way, the Buffs are heading up.
Contact Campus Press Editor Margot Schneider at firstname.lastname@example.org