Heading into Saturday’s game versus Colorado State on the road in Fort Collins, the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team boasted a 6-0 record.
But all good things must come to an end. The Buffs’ perfect season certainly did, as the Rams controlled the pace for much of the game en route to a 72-63 victory.
“This was a disappointing because this was a game we could have won, we should have won, but we didn’t,” head coach Tad Boyle said after the loss. “This stings because it was a winnable game and we didn’t get it done.”
Colorado played without the services of senior forward Tory Miller-Stewart, who is “out indefinitely” with an undisclosed injury that he suffered in practice this past week.
Additionally, the Buffs got just six minutes out of sophomore forward Lucas Siewert, whom Boyle decided to rest after halftime due to a nagging ankle injury.
The absences of both players contributed to the lopsided rebounding totals. Colorado State consistently overpowered the Buffaloes near the glass, with the Rams snagging 46 rebounds to Colorado’s 32.
The Buffaloes were led in that department by freshman guard McKinley Wright IV, who secured eight boards. He was the Buffs’ main offensive weapon. Wright IV dropped 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor.
Senior guard Dom Collier was the only other Buffalo to score in the double digits contributing 10 points.
Wright IV nearly led Colorado to a thrilling comeback in the final 10 minutes of the game, right as things were getting ugly at Moby Arena.
CSU built its biggest lead of the game, going up 63-46. Shortly thereafter, Wright IV scored 11 straight points for Colorado, lowering the Buffs’ deficit to a manageable six points.
“I started the game really slow and [my teammates] believed in me and told me that I [needed] to go into attack mode for us to have a chance,” he said.
But even considering the Buffaloes’ near comeback, the writing was on the wall that their rally would not be enough.
The Rams consistently overpowered Colorado in its defensive zone, snagging rebound after rebound. Buffaloes supporters at Moby Arena likely felt their heads spinning from the Rams’ shot clock constantly being reset to 30 seconds. Colorado State could not be stopped from grabbing rebounds in the Buffs’ half of the court.
“The thing about CSU is [that] you know what you’re going to get before you play them,” Boyle said. “There’s no surprises out there.”
The Rams had five players who snagged six or more boards. CSU’s Deion James led the team with 10 rebounds, adding eight points in the win.
“Rebounding was one of the biggest issues on why we lost,” said freshman center/forward Dallas Walton. “We were -14 [compared to the Rams.] That’s not going to win us any games.”
Senior guard George King had a cold day from the floor, going just 3-of-13. He scored nine and added seven rebounds in the loss.
For the Buffs, losing to their in-state rival for the second year in a row naturally hurts. But this should serve as a wake up call regarding what will be expected of them down the line, especially as Pac-12 Conference play lingers on the horizon.
“Every loss you experience … sheds light on what your deficiencies are,” Boyle said. “We’ve known that. We have to get better at decision-making and we have to become a better rebounding team.”
Colorado will look to remedy its deficiencies next Wednesday, Dec. 6, versus New Mexico. Tipoff is scheduled at 7 p.m. from the Coors Events Center.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.