Nebraska 68, Colorado 61

Before the season began, Ricardo Patton picked <A HREF=http://nebraska.Scout.com>Nebraska</A> as the surprise team in the Big 12. The bigger surprise Wednesday was how poorly the Buffs played early in their 68-61 loss to the Cornhuskers in Boulder.

Colorado's first half display was its worst at home this season, and perhaps the worst half of basketball a Buffs team has played in recent memory. Colorado committed eight turnovers — many of them head-scratchers. And Nebraska's zone defense frustrated the Buffs, who shot just 26 percent from the field before the halftime horn sounded.

Equally as bad, was CU's play on the defensive end of the floor, and the Cornhuskers took advantage and led 37-22 at the break.

The Buffs looked like a different team — in terms of energy and defensive effort — when they hit the floor in the second half. They slowly chipped away at Nebraska's double-digit lead. When freshman Richard Roby hit a trey from the corner with 9:14 remaining, the Buffs pulled to within 10. Seconds later, when Roby stole the ball, dribbled in and skied over a defender for a one-hand dunk, it broke NU's double-digit lead, and ignited the crowd of 3,840.

With 2:18 remaining, Chris Copeland sank two free throws, and Nebraska's lead was 56-53. But the Buffs missed five of 10 foul shots in the game's final six minutes, and could never catch Nebraska.

Copeland led all scorers with 22 points, and pulled down a game-high 14 boards. Roby added 20 for the Buffs. Joe McCray had 21 for Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers are now undefeated (2-0) in league play, while Colorado fell to 0-2 in the conference, 8-5 overall.

QUOTES

Ricardo Patton
In general

Great effort by Nebraska. Unfortunately we waited until the second half to come out and play with any defensive aggression. And we ran out of time.

If you look back at the film, you'll see we were shuffling guys in and out, just trying to get the defensive look we wanted. But right now we have too many guys that just believe they can do it from an offensive standpoint. Chris Copeland's numbers look fine, but so does the guy that he was guarding.

We've just got to get better. We've got to get back to getting after people. As coaches we're just going to continue to work and try to get guys to buy in to playing defense, and not waiting until we get behind.

We had some opportunities late in the second half to cut into the lead even more. We missed some rebound opportunities, we missed free throw opportunities.

Q: Is it a fair statement that that did not look like a Ricardo Patton CU team?
Patton:
It definitely looked different. I think that's a fair assessment. This is not one of the teams that is viewed sometimes as being a hard-nosed defensive group. We've got too many guys thinking they can do it from an offensive standpoint. We've got (Jayson) Obazuaye shooting threes, and I don't think that's what we want him to do. We're not getting enough out of Glean Eddy, one of our upperclassmen.

I think it's more mental than anything else with us. I don't know where the guys are mentally. We had a couple of good days of practice. I thought our preparation was solid.

And I think we showed in the second half, if we came out and played that way in the first half, it could have been a different story.

The zone certainly hurt us because we didn't have enough guys making shots. When we got after it defensively, we still weren't making shots. But it goes back to playing defense.

That (Utah) tape is out there. They played a zone too. You've got to have guys that can either penetrate the zone or guys that can hit from the perimeter.

On NU freshman Joe McCray
Patton:
I think his numbers speak volumes. When he goes 8-for-15 and didn't take bad shorts, didn't force anything. He just knows how to play. He's a guy that has enough body right now as a freshman to be effective in this league.

Q: With Kansas coming in Saturday and a couple road games after that, is it imperative you get things turned around in a hurry?
Patton:
What I said to the team: We have the possibility of having maybe the worst team that we've had in a while, if we don't turn it around and start playing some defense. We'll have that dubious distinction.

If you look at the record, we've done a pretty good job of taking care of home court. That's something I'm most disappointed in that these guys wouldn't come out and fight the way you have to fight to protect it.

Q: Do you have any idea why your team seems to have trouble in the beginning of the game?
Patton:
No. I wish I did. Again, it's got to be mental. It can't be anything physical. I think guys for some reason when we had a bit of success early started to believe that we were better than we are. I told the team, the Utah game — if that happens to you once, it's an aberration. But if it happens to you twice, I think that's who you are. I believe when someone really gets after you — whoever you are — the real you is going to show up. Whoever you are, and whatever you got inside. And I just think right now we're not a tough enough group.

We're doing all we can as coaches to try to toughen ‘em up in a hurry.

STATS LEADERS
Colorado
Points: Copeland 22, Roby 20
Rebounds: Copeland 14
Assists: Marcus Hall 4
Turnovers: five with 2
Blocks: Copeland 3, Arrington 3
Steals: Roby 4

Nebraska
Points: McCray 21, Jason Dourisseau 11
Rebounds: Aleks Maric 11
Assists: Jake Muhleisen 5
Turnovers: Marcus Neal 4
Blocks: John Turek 3

NOTES
Junior forward Andy Osborn was in street clothes for the game, apparently nursing an ankle injury. When asked about the situation after the game, Patton said: "He informed us yesterday that his ankle wasn't feeling well. He basically walked out of practice." No word if he'll play Saturday vs. Kansas. …A day after Patton said that Antoine McGee would maintain his starting point guard position, sophomore Marcus Hall was inserted back into the starting lineup. Hall had nine points and four assists in 37 minutes of play. …The game featured two of the better freshmen in the conference. Nebraska 6-5 guard Joe McCray came in averaging 14.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. CU's Richard Roby was averaging 14.5 and 5.4 boards. Although the two didn't guard each other, McCray ended with 21 and 5, to Roby's 20 and 1. …The one bright spot in the first half was that CU tied a school record for blocks in a half with eight. …The Buffs host No. 2 Kansas at 2 p.m. Saturday.