The first look at Tad Boyle’s 7th CU squad revealed a team that may be even deeper than initially projected and a group that likely features the best collection of shooters that Boyle has had at his disposal since arriving in Boulder.
“It really helps when we play inside-out,” said Boyle. “That’s what we had with Josh last year and that’s why I’m really pleased with tonight’s performance because we continued to get the ball inside and then knock down some threes.”
While the level of the competition certainly has to be taken into account, the Buffaloes impressed offensively. As a team, they shot 53% from the field including a 13-21 mark from behind the line. Colorado put forth a balanced effort as seven different players hit a three-pointer and only three players scored in double digits. Guard Dom Collier, who didn’t start the game due to lingering foot issues, led the way for CU finishing with 12 points, which came on 4-6 shooting from three-point range.
“Dom can play on the ball or off the ball. The thing that makes him so dangerous off the ball is that we have sets where we’re setting ball-screens for our guys off the ball, not just our point guards,” said Boyle. “Dom’s one of our best shooters and we want our best shooters shooting. It’s nice to have that luxury as a coach.”
Coming into this game, Colorado fans were most excited to get their first glimpse of heralded UCCS transfer guard Derrick White. Fighting through an ankle injury sustained earlier in the week, White got his CU career off to a storybook start by scoring the first points of the game on a straight away three pointer.
“It was a cool feeling, I was looking forward to this game for awhile,” said White who would play just 21 minutes on the night and finish with 9 points. “To score the first points, it was awesome and I’m glad we got this win.”
The other two newcomers impressed just as much, if not more so, than White. Deleon Brown perhaps proved the most eye opening, demonstrating his lateral-speed and length on defense and showcasing a clean shot that’s only going to get sharper with development. Joining him in making a flashy debut was the Brazilian product Lucas Siewert who displayed a silky three-point shot and an effective all-around game finishing with 9 points on perfect shooting from deep and 5 rebounds.
“I thought Lucas was terrific, he shot the ball well and we know he can do that. We’ll continue to ask him to rebound and post and be that inside-out presence,” said Boyle. “Deleon I thought was terrific defensively, he played with great energy, he’s gonna be a good player.”
The other big story of the night was Xavier Johnson’s triumphant return to the Coors Events Center floor, which earned him the loudest ovation in pregame introductions. While Johnson was relatively quiet offensively, scoring only 7 points, he pulled in 7 boards and was generally a steadying presence on the floor. It is evident that the exuberant XJ isn’t entirely back to his old self, and he admitted as much in the postgame press conference.
“I’m blessed to be back and can’t take anything for granted,” said Johnson. “I think I still have a little ways to go for a full recovery. My explosion is not all the way back in my foot but I’m a right side jumper anyways so I’m going to use that to my advantage.”
As per usual with a Boyle team, there were some small nits to be picked defensively and on the glass, and to be sure this team has work to do during this non-conference schedule to continue to adjust to life without Josh Scott. Overall, however, it was the clean, confident start that was expected from this group.
“As far as home openers go this was a good one, certainly some areas we can improve in but really some nice things happened out there,” said Boyle. “The strength of this team is going to be their balance and I think that really showed tonight.”
- Each of Colorado’s three newcomers, Derrick White, Deleon Brown, and Lucas Siewert, scored their first career points on three-pointers.
- The Buffaloes only outrebounded the Hornets by 7, finishing with a 47-40 advantage.
- Colorado benefited from 47 points from their bench and 34 points in the paint.
- The win was Colorado’s 402nd at Coors Events Center and 812th in Boulder.