After a difficult first week of poor defense and decent shooting, the University of Colorado Buffaloes finally stepped it up against Jackson State University on Saturday morning. In the end, a strong offense and exceptional defense powered the Buffs past the Tigers, 94-70.
"I thought it was a great showing for our team," head coach Tad Boyle said. "I was really proud of our guys for playing together. When you have 23 assists on 28 baskets, it means you're playing together and you're sharing the ball... Defensively, we held them under 40% field goal percentage, which is a good number."
Throughout the entire game, the Buffs shot 62.2% from the field (28-45), were 9 for 17 from the three-point range (52.9%), and shot just south of 70% from the free throw line with 29 for 43 (67.4%)
At the end of the day, seven Buffs broke double digits in scoring, which is the most in the Tad Boyle era since took over as head coach four years ago. The school record is eight players, which was last achieved in 1973 against Iowa State.
Junior guard Askia Booker led the Buffaloes with 15 points after shooting 60% from the field, and added five rebounds and a career-high six assists on top of that.
Junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie also added 11 points to mix, and added a career-high six steals.
Xavier Talton and Dustin Thomas came off the bench and scored 13 points apiece. Talton added three assists and a steal, and Thomas contributed two assists and a steal of his own. At the end of the day, Colorado's bench contributed 35 points to the overall effort.
After the game, Booker noted that the bench was a huge factor in Saturday's victory.
"The bench came in together, they shared the ball with each other," Booker said. "Those are the plays we need to win."
The Buffs were on fire in the first half of Saturday's game after shooting at least 60% from everywhere on the court. They shot 60% from the three-point range, making 6 of 10 treys. They improved their field goal percentage tremendously from the last game, making 16 of 25 two-point baskets for 64% shooting in that area. To top it all off, the Buffs made 8 out of 12 free throws, shooting 66.7% from the line.
Hopkins played extraordinarily well in his first collegiate start, with 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists. He replaced sophomore guard/forward Xavier Johnson in the starting lineup.
"(Xavier) Johnson got a little dinged up at practice yesterday, so I had to go with somebody," Boyle said. "With Jaron, number one he gave us more size in the perimeter, that (Johnson) doesn't bring us."
The game started out with a quick three by Hopkins a minute into the game, and the Buffs never lost the lead. The closest score of the entire game came fifty seconds later when Brandon West made a two-point jumper for the Tigers, bringing the score to 3-2.
The Tigers kept the score close for the next minute, after Treshawn Bolden made another two-point basket for the Tigers (5-4). Then the Buffs took over.
The Buffs held the Tigers to 37.5% shooting from the field (12 for 32), but only managed to keep them at 50% from the three-point range (6-12). Pressure from behind the arc seems to be a weak point for the Buffs in the first week of this season.
Sophomore guard Xavier Talton played exceptionally well off of the bench in the first half after shooting one hundred percent from the field. He was two for two from behind the arc and added a two-point field goal in the mix, in addition to two assists.
By the end of the half, the Buffs had acquired two separate 11-point leads. The first came with one minute left in the half (44-33), and the other represented the score going into halftime, 46-35.
Going into the second half, the Buffs never lost the momentum. The Tigers only managed to close the gap to 11 with 15:14 left on the clock.
By the end of the game, the Buffs had acquired as much as a 25-point lead, which was sealed with a couple free throws by Ben Mills with two minutes remaining. In the end, the Buffs bested the Tigers 94-70