Brooks: Buffs Seek To Put Shame Of Ames Behind Them
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Not many losses - in fact, none this season - have affected Tad Boyle like his Colorado team's defensive rollover two games ago at Iowa State. Ames? For CU, it became Shames for a night.
With so much to gain, the Buffaloes showed so little in keeping the Cyclones away from the rim and covering their three-point shooters. With the loss, CU lost a chance to take a significant step in the Big 12 Conference standings and perhaps leave the NCAA Tournament bubble for more solid, if unofficially so, footing.
Boyle was beyond disturbed. "There was a lot on the line for us," he said, "and we just didn't respond on the defensive end . . . you score 90 points, you should win on the road or at home."
Not if you allow 95 . . .
Boyle stewed on the loss for a day, replaying for his team the 32 mostly unimpeded trips to the rim that allowed the Cyclones to run what amounted to a 40-minute layup drill. They made 24, a total that Buffs senior Cory Higgins called "unacceptable - especially if you expect to win games in the Big 12. We have to cut down on that and not let them get anything easy."
"They just got a lot of hustle layups, fast breaks, shots that we could have prevented," added CU sophomore Alec Burks. "If we'd stopped that, we could have won by 10 or 15. We didn't rebound, we didn't have that toughness we usually have. If we get that back, we can beat them easy."
The Buffs believe the bad taste of that final trip to Iowa State, can be purged Wednesday afternoon (1 p.m., MST) in the first round of the Big 12 postseason tournament. No. 5 seed CU (19-12) meets No. 12 seed ISU (16-15) in a game the Buffs must win to remain in consideration for the NCAAs.
Said Higgins: "We're fired up . . . we're glad we drew them because they kicked our butts in Ames. We want to show everybody we're not the team that showed up there. We didn't defend and we didn't execute the game plan. We didn't guard the ball, didn't guard the shooters . . . we really didn't do anything defensively that we're trying to get our identity from. That's the most disappointing thing."
Not surprisingly after the implosion in Ames, Boyle spent most of the following day's practice reemphasizing defense. And at least for a 10-point win against Nebraska, the lessons took. But the Cyclones are built differently, and if a team with a 3-13 conference record can be entering its league tournament with anything resembling confidence, it's Iowa State.
The Cyclones won two of their last three regular-seasons games, defeating Nebraska and CU before they went flat (and cold) at Kansas State in a 67-55 loss. Despite the defeat in Manhattan, first-year ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg said his team gained late-season confidence.
"I'm excited about the way we played in a couple of games to end the season," he said. "We fought through adversity in the Nebraska game, then played Colorado close and won." The Buffs rallied in each half but couldn't close out the 'Clones, and Hoiberg said if teams "had that kind of run on us early in season, we'd have dropped our heads and said, 'Here we go again.'
"I love our heart; I've said that all season long. Going back to opening day, really when I took this job, I sat down with this group and talked about expectations. I told this group of guys, as thin as we were, we were going out and battle and give it our best shot. There would be certain nights when we just didn't have enough manpower at the end of the game, but I asked them to play as hard as they can and give themselves a chance to win.
"And that's pretty much what this group has done. It's why I like coaching them. Hopefully we can go down there (to KC) and continue to battle."
If Iowa State's two dozen layups against CU is uncharacteristic of the Cyclones' offensive strength, it underscores how out-of-sorts the Buffs were defensively. The 'Clones love the long-ball; they lead the Big 12 in three-pointers made per game in league play (8.6, 14th nationally). They've made nine or more treys in 15 games this season, including 14 against both Baylor and Kansas this season.
Hoiberg spreads defenses with his launch-it offense, but if a driving lane is offered the Cyclones gladly will travel it . . . ask the Buffs.
"They're going to make some threes; they're a good shooting team . . . a hard team to guard," Boyle said. "You have to pick your poison to some degree. But we have to take away the layups and contest the threes - and understand that some of them might go in."
Iowa State shot 70.4 percent from the field (19-for-27) in the second half against CU a week ago. The Cyclones outrebounded the Buffs 40-32, but Boyle offered an explanation: "They missed eight or nine shots in the second half so there's not a lot of rebounds to be had; you can't rebound it coming out of the net."
Higgins called defending the 'Clones "challenging . . . but it was frustrating because we were able to do it our place, then we went to their place and looked like we weren't the same team. That's the most disappointing thing, knowing we can do it. We have to get back to that."
Although they can't ignore the Big Dance buzz hovering here, not many in the CU camp are immersed in bracketology. Boyle's prescription is to win the first game, win the second (No. 4 seed Kansas State awaits) . . . see where it all goes.
"We've got to win . . . I'm not saying the not whole thing, but certainly the first round game with Iowa State," Boyle said. "I'm not much for making cases - I'm a coach, not a politician. But I do think that we've proven during the course of the Big 12 season that we're capable of beating good teams. The one thing I've said about our team that's frustrating is that we're inconsistent. But the one thing I love is that we're resilient.
"We're capable of playing with anybody on any given night, and to me that's what NCAA Tournament is all about. You want teams in there that are capable of playing the tough teams tough. We're capable of doing that. Inconsistency - we don't have a corner on that market; there's a lot of inconsistent teams throughout the country and that's why you have bubble teams and people making cases for or against certain teams. I just like our resume . . . let wins and losses speak for themselves, because that's what they do."
If the Buffs don't raise their voices Wednesday afternoon (and maybe the following afternoon against K-State), they're in for a silent Selection Sunday - at least in hearing from the NCAA.