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Buffs Fall At Home To No. 13 Tennessee

Dec 4, 2021


BOULDER — Turnovers plagued Colorado early and the Buffaloes had no answer for Tennessee guard Kennedy Chandler on Saturday as CU dropped a 69-54 decision to the No. 13 Vols at the CU Events Center.

Tad Boyle's Buffs fell to 6-3 overall with their second straight loss while Tennessee improved to 6-1.

Evan Battey led CU with 12 points, Tristan da Silva added 11 and Jabari Walker had 10. Keeshawn Barthelemy had just four points on 2-for-13 shooting, but did have a team-high nine rebounds.

Chandler led the Vols with 29 points, with the majority of his buckets coming on drives to the basket.

Colorado committed 15 turnovers — 12 in the first half — leading to 21 Tennessee points. CU was also outscored 42-28 in the paint and the Buffs shot just 19-for-55 (35 percent) from the floor while Tennessee shot 47.5 percent (29-for-61).

It was the third straight game the Buffs have allowed an opponent to shoot at least 46 percent from the floor, with the Vols cashing in 17 layups in the game.

The Buffs trailed by 10 at halftime after Chandler scored the last six points of the half. CU did manage to reduce the margin to five at several junctures midway through the second half, but the Vols never let Colorado get any closer.

"This was an opportunity that if we play the way we're capable of playing, we can win this game — but we didn't," Boyle said. "We were not good enough on offense or defense. We don't have that (defensive) identity yet. We don't have players that have a defensive mindset. We just don't."

HOW IT HAPPENED: After trailing by 10 at intermission, 34-24, the Buffaloes slowly cut the deficit in half by the midway point of the second period. 

A K.J. Simpson dunk pulled CU to within 46-41 at the 10:27 mark and a Walker bucket inside a minute later kept the deficit at five. 

But every time the Buffs threatened to seize momentum, the Vols had an answer. 

After another Simpson basket cut Tennessee's lead back to five one more time, 50-45, the Volunteers reeled off an 8-0 run to take a 58-45 lead with 6:45 remaining — their largest lead of the game to that point. 

"We have a lot of guys thinking about their offense and they're not hanging their hats on defense," Boyle said. "Third game in a row we're in the upper 40s in defensive field goal percentage."

Tennessee's decisive 8-0 run essentially put the game away as Colorado never truly threatened again. The Buffs managed to narrow the margin back to single digits with just more than two minutes to play, but that was as close as they could come.

Colorado's offense never found anything resembling a rhythm over long stretches. Along with the 15 turnovers, the Buffs also had eight of their shots blocked.

"Your offense better be making shots and executing better than we did tonight and taking care of the ball — and not having 23 possessions when the ball doesn't get to the rim," Boyle said.

CU jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead to start the game but the Vols reeled off an 11-0 run to take an 11-10 lead.

The two teams then traded the lead seven times over the next four minutes before Tennessee slowly began to take control. Tennessee outscored Colorado 18-7 over the last nine minutes of the half, including a 6-0 run in the final minutes — all on Chandler drives — to turn a 17-16 Buffs lead into a 34-24 halftime CU deficit.

"Our high ball screen defense is probably the worst in the country — at least it was tonight," Boyle said. "The execution of the coverage was god-awful. We let him get downhill to his right hand and that was not part of the plan. He took this game over and he was terrific."

Turnovers plagued Colorado in the first half, as CU committed 12 miscues in the opening 20 minutes, which the Volunteers turned into 17 points. CU also gave up 26 points in the paint, including 10 layups.

TURNING POINT: With 8:20 still remaining in the game, Colorado cut Tennessee's lead to five and the home crowd seemed ready to fuel a momentum-shifting stretch. Instead, the Vols answered with an 8-0 run after a timeout and the closest Colorado ever came again was nine points.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs have now lost two in a row, but have three more winnable home games on the immediate horizon — Eastern Washington, Milwaukee and CSU Bakersfield.

KEY STATISTICS: Colorado committed 15 turnovers — 12 in the first half — leading to 21 Tennessee points … The Buffs were outscored in the paint, 42-28, which included 17 Vols layups … The Buffs shot just 19-for-55 (35 percent) from the floor, including 4-for-17 from 3-point range, while Tennessee shot 47.5 percent (29-for-61).

NEXT UP: The Buffaloes continue their homestand Wednesday when they play host to Eastern Washington in a 6 p.m. game at the CU Events Center (Pac-12 Networks).