Buffs Grind Out Win Against Cornhuskers
BOULDER - Style points often seemed as scarce as the other kind, but the Colorado Buffaloes gladly took Wednesday night's 72-60 win against Nebraska it for what it was - a Big 12 Conference victory taken from an opponent that nightly puts the 'D' in grind.
The Buffs led buzzer-to-buzzer and even enjoyed a rare 20-point advantage in a conference game, ramping up the Cornhuskers' desperation with the loss.
Nebraska was kept winless (0-5) in league play this season, while CU eased past its meager 2008-09 league win total (one).
"We'd better not stop here," CU coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "It's a process . . . I'm very fortunate that the administration, fans and media have been patient with me.
"It's about winning now; we just got one senior and I feel great about our future."
Improving to 11-9 overall and 2-3 in the league, the Buffs led by 10 points (31-21) at halftime and increased their advantage to as many as 20 (59-39) in the second half.
"Where we struggled was effort," Huskers coach Doc Sadler said. "Colorado was the aggressor tonight. We turned the ball over 13 times in the first half - that's not being ready to play.
"That's a responsibility I have. It has nothing to do with shots. It was not being the aggressive basketball team."
Nebraska, falling to 12-8 overall, entered the game as the league's top-ranked in scoring defense, allowing 60.4 points a game. With their deliberate style and a roster that could use another consistent scorer or three, the Huskers were last in the conference in scoring offense (67.4).
The Buffs held them to 39.6 percent field goal shooting (19-of-48) and limited them to one three-pointer in the second half (5-of-17 overall).
Faced with their night-long task of climbing out of a hole, Bzdelik said the Huskers "just put their heads down, abandoned their style and drove to the rim a little too often" to suit him.
He was referring to Nebraska creeping to within 11 points three times in the final 3:39 - the last with 1:13 left - then cutting CU's lead to 70-60 in the final minute. That was as close as the visitors came, and Bzdelik credited the Events Center crowd (7,108) for helping the Buffs through a couple of late rough patches.
"We had great contributions from everyone in the Coors arena tonight," he said. "Our fans and student body were awesome. They energized Coors once again, and that means so much to us."
Freshman Alec Burks led CU with 21 points, while Cory Higgins contributed 11 and Nate Tomlinson 10. Burks is the only freshman in the nation to score in double figures in all of his 2009-10 games.
Junior Marcus Relphorde, sidelined by a hip bruise for much of the Saturday loss at Texas A&M, returned to the lineup while freshman Keegan Hornbuckle (shoulder sprain) did not dress for the second consecutive game.
Bzdelik said Relphorde "played through it . . . I'm really proud of him." Relphorde played 29 minutes, scoring nine points to go with four rebounds and two steals.
Hornbuckle, said Bzdelik, "just needs rest - which is great news."
The Buffs led by 10 at the half, using four treys in the final 4 minutes to fashion their 31-21 advantage. The Huskers, forced into 13 turnovers before intermission and 16 for the game, tied a season low for first-half points.
"We stayed solid," Higgins said of his team's defensive performance. "There was no gambling and we tried not to give them any second-chance points. We played a lot of man, and everybody stayed in front of their man."
CU tries to break its 32-game conference road losing streak Saturday at Iowa State - and Higgins said he "can't get any more sick of hearing about it. We are knocking on the door. I guess we need to just stop knocking and bust the door open.
"We got a big win here (Wednesday) and hopefully we can carry that momentum to Saturday at Iowa State, which is a very winnable game for us."