Buffaloes Roll Past UC Riverside In Season Opener
BOULDER — Colorado produced balanced scoring and the Buffaloes received some solid performances from their newcomers Monday as CU opened the season with an 82-66 win over UC Riverside at the CU Events Center.
Tad Boyle's Buffs built a double-digit lead midway through the first half and held a 46-28 edge at intermission. CU then built the lead into the 20s in the second half before allowing the Highlanders to momentarily close the gap to 10 late in the period.
The Buffs finished with four players in double figures, led by J'Vonne Hadley. The junior college transfer just missed a double-double in his CU debut, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds. Point guard KJ Simpson scored 14, Tristan da Silva scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds and Jalen Gabbidon, a transfer from Yale, also had 12.
Colorado shot 47 percent from the floor (30-for-64) and held Riverside to 40 percent shooting (29-for-72), including just 4-for-21 from 3-point range. The Buffs also forced 15 turnovers, which they converted into 22 points, but they did lose the rebound battle, 44-43.
"Good win," said Boyle, who picked up career win No. 255 and is now just seven victories away from becoming the program's all-time winningest coach. "First games are never easy. You never quite know what to expect … Some good things we can build on and a lot of things we can learn from."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado led early, 10-5, before the Highlanders put together a 10-4 run to take a 15-14 lead with 11:13 to play in the first half.
But the Buffs quickly righted themselves after a timeout, putting together a 14-0 run to take control. Nique Clifford had a 3-pointer early in the surge, da Silva added another triple three possessions later and Gabbidon wrapped it up with a second-chance bucket and free throw to give Colorado a 28-15 edge with 7:46 still to play in the half.
The Buffs then maintained their double-digit edge the rest of the half, building it to as much as 19 (45-26) before heading into intermission with a 46-28 edge.
Colorado finished the first half with 10 assists on 19 baskets while forcing nine UCR turnovers on the defensive end that led to 15 CU points. The Buffs used 10 different players in the first half, with nine breaking into the scoring column.
CU pushed its cushion to 21 early in the second half before UCR made a brief run with an 8-0 surge to pull within 55-42, prompting a Boyle timeout.
The Buffs responded by stopping the Highlanders run and building the lead back into the 20s. UCR managed to cut Colorado's cushion back down to 10 in the final minutes but could never come closer.
The 6-foot-6 Hadley had an excellent night on both ends of the floor, adding a block, a steal and three assists to his 16 points and nine boards. The Buffs were a plus-23 when he was on the floor, and he consistently showed an ability to guard bigger players.
Hadley played high school ball in St. Paul, Minn. (where he was also a standout football player), and played AAU ball with former Gonzaga star and current NBA rookie Chet Holmgren. He spent his first year in college at Northeastern before transferring to Indian Hills Community College, where he earned JC All-American honors.
"I've always had that sort of grit to me," Hadley said. "Growing up I've always been kind of counted out. Not a lot of people thought I could play at this level. That's one of the biggest things that I've come to wear every single night. Just proving that I belong here. I can play at this level."
Boyle said Buffs fans will no doubt quickly come to appreciate Hadley's play.
"He makes winning plays," Boyle said. "He plays with unbelievable energy and a lot of heart. Our fans are going to fall in love with J'Vonne because he brings it every day."
TURNING POINT: After UCR took a 15-14 lead early in the game, the Buffs put together a 14-0 run for a 28-15 lead and they never let their cushion dip into single digits again.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs displayed terrific depth and the ability to play with a big and small lineup, versatility that will be valuable as the season unfolds.
KEY STATISTICS: Colorado held UCR to just 4-for-21 shooting from 3-point range … The Buffs forced 15 Highlanders turnovers and converted them into 22 points … CU had 15 assists on 30 baskets … The Buffs' reserves outscored their UCR counterparts 32-19.
NOTEWORTHY: Luke O'Brien came off the bench to grab six rebounds … Redshirt freshman Javon Ruffin, who missed all of last season with an injury, had an outstanding debut with seven points, two rebounds and an assist in 14 minutes on the floor … Simpson and big man Lawson Lovering each had a pair of steals ... All 10 players who saw the floor played at least 10 minutes.
NEXT UP: The Buffs play at Grambling State on Friday in a 6 p.m. contest (ESPN+), then face No. 11 Tennessee on Sunday in a noon (MT) matchup in Nashville (ESPN).
After that, Colorado will play Nov. 17, 18 and 20 in the Myrtle Beach Invitational in Conway, S.C. Colorado opens play in the tournament on Nov. 17 at 11:30 a.m. against UMass (ESPNU).