Brooks: Buffs Apply Brakes To High-Scoring Beavers
BOULDER - The Pac-12 Conference's highest scoring team hurtled headlong into a defensive roadblock (or maybe it was a snow bank) on Thursday night.
Oregon State, averaging a league-best 82.4 points, found itself completely untracked by the University of Colorado, which ran, rocked and rolled to a convincing 82-60 victory at the Coors Events Center.
The Beavers' 60 points tied their lowest total of the season - a 74-60 home loss to Idaho in early December. They rode into Boulder on a three-game winning streak.
"I'm obviously pleased with the way our guys came out ready to go," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "If you hold them to 36 percent (from the field) at home, you should win. We got stops, we got into transition . . . the best way to beat a zone is to beat them down the court."
The Beavers, hoping their 1-3-1 zone would befuddle the Buffs, found themselves in early trouble and never found a way out. OSU's Jared Cunningham, the Pac-12's leading scorer (18.2), was held to 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field.
Cunningham was mostly checked by Nate Tomlinson, whom Boyle called "one of the most underrated defenders in our league." And the Buffs did an equally decisive number on Cunningham's backcourt mate, Ahmad Starks, who was averaging 13.6 points. CU held him to three (1-of-8 from the field).
"Their backcourt is a big part of what they do . . . we tried to make them take tough, contested shots," said Tomlinson, who had a game-high six of his team's season-best 19 assists.
CU (15-7 overall, 7-3 Pac-12) remained unbeaten (6-0) at home in conference play and maintained its pace with Oregon for second place. The Ducks, who won at Utah Thursday night, are scheduled to play Saturday (7 p.m.) at the Events Center. Their arrival on this side of the Rockies could be dicey, depending on weather conditions Friday. Boyle joked, "I hope they get here at 6:45 (Saturday night) . . . No, I just hope they get here."
Five CU players reached double figures against OSU, topped by Andre Roberson's 16 points and 15 rebounds. Askia Booker added 15 points, Austin Dufault 14, Carlon Brown 12 and Spencer Dinwiddie 10.
"When you play defense like we did, they can have a lot of guys have a great night - and that's what they did," OSU coach Craig Robinson said. "That's what good teams do, they take advantage of teams when they come into their place and play well. That's a credit to their coach and their preparation."
The Buffs entered the game as the Pac-12 leader in field goal percentage defense (39.8) - and the Beavers quickly discovered why. OSU, which also led the league in field goal percentage (48.5), was held 38.2 percent from the field in the first half as CU opened a 15-point advantage at intermission. OSU (14-8, 4-6) finished the game at 36.2 percent from the field (21-of-58).
CU led by as many as 28 points in the second half and was never threatened - and that's just the way Boyle wanted it. The Buffs were expecting a run from the Beavers to open the second half, but it didn't happen. In fact, the team that hit the gas early was CU.
Boyle had talked to his team in the locker room about "winning every four-minute segment . . . we felt if we could extend that thing (a 15-point halftime lead), we could put them away. And we did. It's a sign of progress."
At the 15:31 mark of the second half, the Buffs had gone up by 22, with Roberson scoring all of the points in a 6-0 surge that put CU up 57-35. His last basket during that run came on a transition dunk - give the bounce pass assist to Tomlinson - that brought the crowd to a full roar.
After that, OSU was on the ropes and couldn't recover. When CU went up 80-52 with 3:18 to play, many in the crowd of 7,858 pulled on their coats and prepared for a snowy ride home, leaving the Buffs reserves to finish out this one.
CU's 46 first-half points were a team first-half seasonal high in Pac-12 play. After a 17-17 tie just over midway through the opening half, the Buffs applied the defensive clamps to the conference's highest-scoring team and steadily pulled away.
The double-digit lead marked the fourth time in six home games the Buffs have accomplished that feat, and their halftime lead was their largest before intermission. The Beavers' largest lead was three points (twice) in the game's first 5 minutes.
Robinson said his team was not "ready to play. The beginning of the game looked good. I don't know if it's the altitude or it's complacency, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that (CU) played really well. We didn't get back on defense and that was a big part of it. There were so many points from the paint in transition . . . you just can't win that way."
CU outscored OSU 22-8 on fast breaks, 42-30 in the paint and outrebounded the visitors 43-31. The Buffs shot 60.7 percent (17-of-28) from the field in the first 20 minutes and 51.8 for the game (29-of-56).
The Buffs got their usual boost from the bench, again courtesy of Booker. In his first 4 minutes on the court, he had five points, two rebounds, a steal and an assist. "Ski" logged another seven first-half minutes and his productivity didn't slip.
He finished the half with 11 points, five boards, three assists and a pair of steals - all done without a turnover. He also was perfect (seven-of-seven) from the free throw line.
Booker got a first-half assist in the scoring department from Dufault, who matched the freshman's total, giving CU two players in double figures in the first half for the second time at home this season in conference play and the third time overall.
Boyle said Booker "is perfect in our role as a sixth man" and called Roberson's collection of double-doubles (14 for the season) "just ridiculous . . . and when you look at what he does per minute, it's staggering. One thing he always does is rebound the ball. I can't say enough about him, but I wish I could take credit for teaching him to rebound."
Said Roberson: "I just try to be consistent . . . we had a loss at UCLA (last weekend) and we had to rebound from that."
Tickets for Saturday's game against Oregon (7 p.m., ROOT Sports) are available at CUBuffs.com/tickets or by calling 303-49-BUFFS.