Programs in the Kansas City area whiffed when it came to recruiting Alec Burks, a sophomore guard who took the Big 12 by storm as a rookie and is not about to let up.
Burks, who is from Grandview, Mo., got to open conference play against his in-state school and riddled Missouri with a career-high 36 points as the Buffaloes upset the No. 9 Tigers 89-76 on Jan. 8.
"When you've got a guy from your home state, he's going to take it personal," said Missouri coach Mike Anderson, who did not offer a scholarship to Burks, who opted to sign with former Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik.
Although Burks did not receive much acclaim from recruiting services, he grew several inches before beginning school at Colorado. Now, as a dangerous wing, he is projected as a first-round pick in the next NBA Draft should he elect to leave after his sophomore season.
Fittingly, the point total for Burks was the most by a Buff against Missouri during the 15-year Big 12 era, which Colorado caps this season before moving into the Pac-12. It was also the most points by a Buff since Nov. 18, 2000, when D.J. Harrison poured in 38 against Austin Peay.
Still, Burks wasn't planning a wild celebration after Colorado improved to 12-4 overall.
"Just because it's Missouri doesn't mean it has any extra special meaning for me," he said. "It's just a game to me."
--Although F Trey Eckloff did not dress for the Missouri game on Jan. 8 because of an ankle sprain he suffered in practice, Colorado claimed a 47-33 advantage on the boards. The Buffs ranked 10th in the Big 12 in rebounding margin during nonconference play, one spot ahead of the Tigers. With the 89-76 win, Colorado improved to 9-0 in games it outrebounded opponents and 11-1 when scoring more than 80 points.
--About 50 former Colorado players were recognized at halftime of the Missouri game, including former All-Americans Birdie Halderson and Cliff Meely.
BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Turnovers committed by Colorado in the victory over Missouri, which just happened to be 10 fewer than Missouri had forced on average in nonconference play.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The whole key to our game plan (against Missouri) was for our players to make decisions when we broke the press, when do we attack and when do we pull back? ... They did a great job making those decisions." -- Colorado coach Tad Boyle.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Kansas State, Jan. 12.
KEY MATCHUPS: F Curtis Kelly will still be serving his six-game suspension, which weakens Kansas State underneath in terms of scoring threats. G Jacob Pullen remains a perimeter threat. So too is G Rodney McGruder, the Wildcats' most improved player.
--vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 15.
KEY MATCHUPS: The Cowboys were impressive beating Kansas State in their conference opener. G J.P. Olukemi and F Darrell Williams give the Cowboys additional threats besides two veterans, G Keiton Page and F Marshall Moses. Battling OSU on the boards will be tough for the Buffs.
FUTURES MARKET: Everything looks bright as long as Colorado is at home after the Buffaloes knocked off a top-10 rival, Missouri, to snap a 13-game losing streak in Big 12 openers. Winning on the road is another matter, but the Buffs have a backcourt combination, G Cory Higgins and G Alec Burks, that could be as good as any in the conference. Both are tough to guard because of their length on the wing. And after snapping a 19-game losing streak against top-10 opponents, the Buffs should not lack confidence.
--Junior G Nate Tomlinson sat out a Jan. 5 win against Western New Mexico to treat a sore hip. He returned to the starting lineup against Missouri, but wasn't at full strength, playing 17 minutes and going scoreless with no assists.
--Junior F Trey Eckloff did not suit up for the Missouri game after suffering a sprained ankle in practice the day before. Eckloff wore a boot on his left foot.
--Senior G Cory Higgins made 29 of 30 free throws over a seven-game stretch concluding with the Missouri win.