Buffs Ground Redhawks in Legends Classic Opener, Avenge 2015 CBI Loss

After an icy start from the field and a sluggish early effort, Colorado rallied to avert disaster and defeat the Seattle Redhawks 67-56.

It wasn’t even remotely pretty but the Buffaloes managed to do enough defensively and on the glass in the second half to emerge with their first-ever win over Seattle.

“That was the definition of winning ugly, right there,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “To figure out a way to win on a night when you’re not functioning offensively this early in the season is a testament to our guys’ will and their toughness and our defense and rebounding. That’s why we always emphasize it.”

Colorado held the Redhawks to 24 points in the second half and outrebounded Seattle 55-35 on the night, which put together with Seattle’s 32 fouls, was the difference in the game.

CU awoke from their deep shooting slumber in time to hit three 3-pointers in the second frame, two of which came back-to-back from Josh Fortune with three minutes remaining in the game while the Buffs were nursing a four-point lead. Those shots proved to be decisive.

“It was big, they were making a little bit of a run,” said Derrick White. “For him to step up when he’s been struggling and the whole team was struggling from deep is big for us and a big play from him.”

Seattle had success throughout the night implementing the tried-and-true game plan that can give Boyle teams fits, playing a 3-2 zone while getting back quickly on misses. This Buffs team is expected to be able to shoot themselves out of situations like that, but those shots didn’t start falling until the second half and even then they came sparingly. Fortunately for the Buffs, Seattle managed to shoot even worse from the floor and was in near-constant foul trouble.

“They had two or four points for the longest time and that’s when we made our run. We definitely changed our focus and locked down on defense,” said White. “We just had to come out and play Colorado basketball.”

This was likely that one non-conference matchup each year that unfolds uncomfortably and causes fans more anxiety than they bargained for. Ultimately, it’s another experience this team can build on as it did serve to illuminate a few offensive deficiencies that will need to be remedied when the caliber of the opposition improves.

“I’d rather we not have a sloppy game, but it’s good early to show the young guys that we’re not always going to be able to score when we want to and the shots aren’t going to fall every night and that’s how important defense and rebounding are,” said Wesley Gordon. “This was good to show them what we’re about.”

If the shots aren’t falling in Brooklyn, or in conference play, Colorado is going to need to find a way to score the ball inside and get to the rim via effective entry passes. It’s another key area where this team must compensate and find new ways to score efficiently.

“We really wanted our post guys to establish a presence, I thought they did a much better job of doing that in the second half,” said Boyle. “It’s almost like the first half they just caught it and were looking to kick it out, which is fine if the threes are going but if not we’ve got to go at those guys and put the ball in the basket.”

The Buffs have one more tune up on Thursday night before the real show begins, and it’s clear that, when the shots aren’t going down, this team has work to do.

“It’s coming. We handled it tonight, we won ugly, but we’re in the process of becoming a good team. We’re not a good team right now, we’re in the process of becoming one,” finished Boyle.

Notes:

- Xavier Johnson joined the 1,000-point club tonight, he currently has 1,009. He becomes the 33rd Colorado player in history to reach this milestone.

- Wes Gordon recorded his 11th career double-double, notching 11 points and 14 boards.

- Gordon also recorded his 700th career rebound, becoming the 11th player in Colorado history to do so.

- Five players recorded a block or steal in tonight’s victory after CU earned only one steal against Sacramento State.

https://twitter.com/CUBuffsMBB/status/798389439412117504

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