Buffs Fall To No. 12 Volunteers
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Colorado cut a big early deficit down to two in the second half Tuesday, but could never quite get over the hump and the Buffaloes dropped a 56-47 decision to No. 12 Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena.
CU fell to 2-1 with the loss while the Volunteers won their season opener.
Grad transfer Jeriah Horne led the Buffs with a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double, including seven points in a 14-2 first-half CU run that helped the Buffs back in the game. McKinley Wright IV added eight points and seven rebounds for Colorado.
The Buffs trailed by as many as 16 midway through the first half, but cut the gap to seven by intermission, then pulled to within two, 33-31, with a 7-2 burst to start the second half. But that was as close as the Buffs could get, as Tennessee slowly built the lead back to double digits and then held Colorado off down the stretch.
CU committed 23 turnovers that led to 16 Tennessee points, and the Buffs shot just 33% from the field.
"Disappointing," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "I thought defensively we played well enough to win … Offensively, we were so bad tonight. You turn the ball over 23 times and you shoot 33 percent, it's a recipe for getting blown out. I have to credit our guys, we didn't get blown out. But we were not good enough offensively."
John Fulkerson and Santiago Vescovi led the Vols with 11 points each.
HOW IT HAPPENED: The Buffs endured a horrific start, falling behind 17-2 after the first eight minutes. Five minutes later, the deficit reached 16 when the Vols pushed their lead to 26-10.
But thanks to a 14-2 run — with seven points from Horne — Colorado came back to cut the lead to four late in the half and trailed by only seven, 31-24, at intermission. CU switched to a zone defense in that stretch, and the move frustrated the Vols, as they endured a three-minute scoring drought to help the Buffs back in the game.
"You guys know I'm not a zone coach," Boyle told the media after the game. "We had trouble guarding them. Evan got in foul trouble, we went to the zone, it was successful, so we stuck with it."
CU cut Tennessee's edge to two points with a 7-2 surge to start the second half. Maddox Daniels hit a 3-pointer, Dallas Walton added a dunk and Keeshawn Barthelemy reaped a fast break dunk off an assist from Wright to narrow UT's cushion to 33-31.
But following a timeout, the Vols scored five quick points, then slowly pushed their lead back to double digits, 50-39. The Buffs had three turnovers and missed three shots in a four-minute stretch that helped the Volunteers rebuild their cushion.
"We were not good enough offensively," Boyle said. "I have to do a better job as their coach. We have to learn to handle the pressure better because if anybody watches, they're going to see that if you climb up into Colorado, they will pee down their leg and give you the ball. We have to learn how not to do that."
Colorado did make one more push down the stretch, twice closing the gap to five. An Evan Battey bucket with 3:05 left pulled CU to within 50-45, and two Horne free throws a minute later cut Tennessee's edge to 52-47. But the Buffs couldn't come any closer as the Vols kept the Buffs at bay over the final two minutes.
Nearly everyone in a CU uniform struggled offensively. Horne was 4-for-8 from the field, but no other Buff who took at least two shots managed to shoot 50 percent. Barthelemy was 3-for-12, D'Shawn Schwartz was 0-for-5 in his season debut and Wright was just 3-for-8. Overall, the Buffs were only 5-for-22 from long distance.
"I've got to do a better job," Boyle said. "I know that after watching this team play tonight. We have to do a better job relying on each other offensively rather than relying on our individual talents. When you don't play together and work together and move the ball and share the ball and take care of the ball, you've got no shot against a good team."
The Buffs dug themselves a hole early, as the Vols threatened to turn the game into a blowout just eight minutes in. The Buffs missed eight of their first 10 field goal tries and committed six turnovers as well in that stretch to help Tennessee carve out a 17-2 lead with 12:22 still to play in the first half.
UT then stretched its cushion to 16 points, building a 26-10 lead with just under eight minutes to go in the half.
But just when it looked like the Buffs might be down for good, they put together a 14-2 run to cut Tennessee's lead to 28-24 with 53 seconds left in the half.
Senior forward Jeriah Horne had seven points in the run, including a 3-pointers to start the surge. Guard Keeshawn Barthelemy added five in the run, including a 3-pointer, and McKinley Wright added two free throws.
Tennessee then closed the half with a Santiago Vescovi 3-pointer to take a 31-24 edge into intermission.
TURNING POINT: After the Buffs cut Tennessee's lead to two, 33-31, early in the second half and seemed to have momentum, the Vols scored five quick points after a timeout, aided by a CU turnover. Colorado never came closer than five again.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs missed a golden opportunity to pick up a quality road win against a top 25 team.
CU STANDOUTS: Jeriah Horne had 15 points and 11 rebounds, the only CU player in double figures.
MISSING PLAYERS: The Buffs were without the services of junior guard Eli Parquet and freshman guard Luke O'Brien, both of whom missed because of coronavirus issues. CU has yet to play a game with all 13 scholarship players available.
KEY STATISTICS: The Buffs committed 23 turnovers that led to 16 UT points and shot just 33 percent (16-for-48) from the floor
QUOTEWORTHY: "We fought our way back in the game. It was a one-possession game at one point. But we had some open shots that we have to be able to make." — CU coach Tad Boyle
NEXT UP: The Buffs are scheduled to play host to Northern Colorado next Monday at 7 p.m. at the CU Events Center.