Walker’s Broken Backboard Ends Exhibition Early With Buffs In Lead
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – For a game that didn't count, or completed for that matter, there's no doubt the University of Colorado men's basketball team will be talking about the third Costa Rican exhibition for a long time.
Sophomore Jabari Walker's dunk attempt at the 2:24 mark of the third quarter shattered the backboard and thus ended the game with the Buffaloes leading Seleccion de Baloncesto, 68-54, Sunday night at Banco Nacional Arena in San Jose.
Tristan da Silva led Colorado with 12 points while K.J. Simpson had 11 points and three steals.
The Buffaloes were pushing the ball up the floor. Luke O'Brien dribbled in from the right wing with Walker trailing to his left. O'Brien stopped at the free throw line and dished off to Walker, who shuffled his feet and ended up jumping off the wrong foot. The ball on his dunk attempt popped out before the backboard glass came shattering down to the floor. With no replacement readily available, the game was called at that point.
"I didn't think Luke saw me actually, so I was about to go get his rebound and then he passed it to me," Walker said. "I shuffled my feet, as everyone knows I traveled a little bit so it was unexpected. Then I usually don't go off my left leg, so I didn't really get up that high. And then I ended up missing the dunk and grabbed the rim, like extra.
"And then I saw the glass come down out of my peripheral vision. That's when you'll see me get out of the way and like, hurry up and try to miss the glass. It was crazy. I wasn't really expecting the pass, I wish I would have I wish I'd have made it."
It was an abrupt ending to an entertaining game. Seleccion de Baloncesto was a "select team" of veteran players from the Costa Rican professional league and gave the Buffaloes their toughest competition in the three games.
Seleccion de Baloncesto was quicker out of the gate. The Costa Ricans used back-to-back 3-pointers from Andrew Robinson and Derrick Whitley for an early 10-4 lead.
"I think it was a little bit of a shock to their system because the first two games had been so easy, but now they're playing against guys and we're actually pro," said assistant coach Rick Ray who served as the acting head coach on Sunday as Tad Boyle observed.
"When you play against pros, pros can make shots. And so I didn't think we respected them and so they made a few shots right over the top of our hands and so now our guys understood they have to get up and get into the ball and be more active and keep a hand over the ball if not, these guys are gonna make shots because that's what they get paid to do is shoot the ball and make them."
An uptick in defensive intensity allowed the Buffaloes to erase that lead quickly. K.J. Simpson scored two straight, including a steal and breakaway dunk to spark a 9-2 run. Evan Battey scored off a nice feed from Lawson Lovering and a subsequent free throw gave the Buffaloes their first lead at 13-12.
"It gave us a better chance to work on our stuff," Simpson said. "We had to tighten it a little bit more, you know, especially running plays. We had to talk a lot more. It just helped us overall as a team, and I know we're only going to benefit from playing teams like that."
Robinson hit two more 3-pointers to keep Seleccion de Baloncesto in step with the Buffaloes, but Keeshawn Barthelemy scored five points in the final minute to give Colorado a 25-23 lead after one.
Robinson, who played collegiately for Quinnipiac – and against Colorado in the 2017 Paradise Jam – led all scorers with 19 points.
Colorado gained some separation early in the second quarter. Tristan da Silva scored the Buffaloes' first seven points of the period – a 3-pointer and four free throws – to put Colorado up 32-27.
Simpson had another steal-and-dunk, Julian Hammond drilled a pair of 3-pointers as the Buffaloes held Seleccion de Baloncesto to 14 second quarter points and took a 50-37 lead at the break.
Simpson scored CU's first three points of the second half, but picked up a fourth foul early. With Simpson on the bench, the Buffaloes' depth came through. Nique Clifford and da Silva hit 3-pointers down the stretch to keep the lead in double digits. Da Silva's three proved to be the last points, with 2:40 left in the third quarter that provided the final margin.
"I think the one thing that we've got to stress to our team is we got a lot of depth," Ray said. "I think once the so called subs come in, the performance doesn't drop off of what we can do defensively, so when we're out there we got to exhaust ourselves for what we can do on the defensive end in order to make a difference. Offense will come, but defensively we got to keep the pressure on."
Colorado is scheduled to conclude its Costa Rica exhibition tour on Monday against Grecia at 8 p.m. MT at the Banco Nacional Arena. The status of replacing the broken backboard is not known, although the Buffaloes are preparing to play the game as scheduled.