The Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball season kicked off at the Coors Event Center Friday night, as they defeated the Northern Colorado Bears by the score of 66-51.
Colorado started the game playing well, despite senior guard-forward George King getting into early foul trouble. The Buffs led by the score of 35-24 at the end of the first quarter. Much of the strong start was thanks to freshman guard McKinley Wright IV’s aggressiveness on the floor. The Minnesota native finished the game with 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting, with four rebounds and three assists.
“George [King] told me ‘there’s no such thing as pressure when you’re prepared,’” Wright IV said after the game. “Ever since I stepped on campus, them and the rest of the team have helped me prepare and have led and guided me through the right direction. So there were no nerves.”
Unfortunately for the Buffs, rebounding troubles arose once again. The poor performance on the boards kept the Bears in the game as they led the Buffs 21-16 in rebounds at the half. Colorado has now been out-rebounded in the first half in back-to-back games, including the exhibition game against Colorado School of Mines.
“[Head Coach Tad Boyle] definitely emphasized it the whole week though, but definitely at halftime,” senior forward Tory Miller-Stewart said. “He said some words I can’t say.”
The half ended with the Buffs up by 11.
Colorado had trouble finding their shooting rhythm as well. CU only shot 48 percent from the field and 27 percent from beyond the arc in the first half. They also went 3-of-6 from the free throw line. Boyle noticed an interesting pattern as the game went on.
“When we shoot the ball well from three, it’s usually after a paint touch,” Boyle said. “We had 36 possessions in the first half, we were 16-for-20 when we got a paint touch in the first half. That means we scored or we got fouled. When we didn’t get a paint touch, we were 1-for-16 . . . I don’t know if it’s the basketball gods or what but when we get paint touches we’re pretty good.”
This will be an interesting trend to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Thanks to some sloppy turnovers by the Buffs and a sub-par defensive effort, the Bears went on a 13-2 run in the first four minutes of the second half. Northern Colorado came back to tie the game after being down 11 to start the second half.
King came back into the game and provided an added defensive will and intensity that got Colorado back on track. He finished the night as Colorado’s leading scorer with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting and nine rebounds, also a team-high.
“We had the momentum coming out in the second half and when I first got in,” King said. “I was overdoing it and trying too hard to pull my will. But Namon [Wright] talked to me when I was going to the bench and had some words for me and I was able to allow myself to let the game come to me.”
“[King] finally figured out that they can’t guard him in the lane,” Boyle remarked. “Their wings are six-feet-two and six-feet-three and he’s six-feet-six and he’s physically stronger and more athletic than them. I felt like he could’ve been attacking the rim all night under control, when he did that, he got some easy buckets in the second half.”
Aside from the first part of the second half, Boyle was pleased with the way Colorado were able to rebound, both literally and figuratively.
“Our defensive effort and intensity tonight was really good for about 30 minutes,” Boyle said. “The first 10 minutes of the second half, we let them back in the game, they were shooting 50 percent, but then we clamped back down. Rebounding was big in the second part of the second half.”
For Northern Colorado, senior guard Andre Spight led the team in scoring with 19 points, shooting 8-of-26 from the field and tying a team high eight rebounds alongside sophomore forward Roberto Vercellino.
Up next, Colorado will go up against the Denver Pioneers on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at the Coors Event Center. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. MST and will be broadcasted live on Pac-12 Mountain.
Contact CU Independent sports staff writer Drew Sharek at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @drew_sharek.