Anyone who's ever played in a bar band has a story about the time they played a gig and the people in the band outnumbered the people in the audience. Members of the Colorado and UC-Irvine basketball teams could have had the same story to tell when it was time to sing the national anthem before Saturday night's game. The stands were nearly empty. A half hour later, most of the announced crowd of 1,416 had found their way into the arena.
That's what happens when you play UC-Irvine on a cold, wintry night opposite a Broncos broadcast.
The people who did show up were privy to an entertaining contest. The Anteaters, an excellent shooting team, had beaten then-No. 13 Stanford on the road. They opened in a zone defense, and Colorado — as it had in its previous game, a win over Utah — made them pay with 3-pointers early. Despite Irvine guard Ross Schraeder's 17 first-half points, Colorado took a 47-36 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Strong play from 6-3 point guard Aaron Fitzgerald, who had seven assists and ran an efficient Anteater offense, helped keep UC-Irvine in the game. Seven consecutive points by UC-Irvine forward Nic Campbell pulled the Anteaters to within five early in the second half.
From there, every time UC-Irvine would make a run, the Buffs would answer. Still, Irvine shot 56.6 percent from the field for the game.
"I don't think we'll face a team who can shoot the ball as a whole as well (as Irvine)," CU senior Martane Freeman said afterwards.
Schaeder , a senior who prepped at Denver East High School, ended the night with 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting. Irvine fell to 4-4 with the loss.
Colorado answered with a good, scrappy game from Freeman, who had 17 points and three steals. Richard Roby led CU with 20 points. Marcus Hall (14), Dominique Coleman (13), Jayson Obazuaye (13) and Andy Osborn (10) were also in double figures.
A great win, especially under the circumstances. We've had just a very distracting week. Guys have been in exams. We had not been able to practice in the arena for a few days. Guys had to miss practice; I don't think we had one practice where we had all our guys there.
So with all the distractions these young men have had this week, I'm really proud of how they beat in my mind a very good basketball team. Anytime you can shoot the basketball as well as they can, you have a chance to win.
Q: Does this team keep its focus well?
RP: I think certainly you can see a difference in the mentality of this team. You should, though, with as many seniors as we have. That's one thing we've talked about. Young teams, typically, ride rollercoasters. But we have guys who have been through it.
Q: Were you pleased with your defensive effort out there? It seemed like the intensity was good.
RP: The intensity was there. But we gave up some easy buckets on som back cuts. That's gonna happen in the course of a game when you're being aggressive.
Schraeder is just a phenomenal shooter. I hope some of our guys take something from his exhibition and get in the gym and work on their shooting. There's no question that he has spent a good deal of time perfecting that shot.
Q: Will you ever come in here and say we played a great defensive game?
RP: (laugh) Probably not. It's ironic that right after the game you just remember all the miscues. That's what stands out right now.
Q: Are you starting to smell the Big 12 around the corner, or is that still too far away?
RP: It's still too far away. I had a friend today who was trying to talk to me about Kansas and I said, I'm thinking too much about Irvine for that.
You really can't look too far ahead. As the saying goes, when you look at the elephants, the ants crawl all over you. We've got another tough game coming up (Dec. 20) at TCU. I think that they are a better team than their record indicates.
Points: Richard Roby 20
Rebounds: Andy Osborn 7
Assists: Marcus Hall 5
Turnovers: three tied with 2
Blocks: Roby 2
Steals: Freeman, Roby 3
Points: Ross Schraeder 26
Rebounds: Mark Kelley 6
Assists: Aaron Fitzgerald 7
Turnovers: Fitzgerald 6
Senior post player Chris Copeland started the game, as he has all season, but wasn't on the floor when the second half began. Patton said afterwards that Copeland didn't have a good week of practice. Marcus King-Stockton was in his place. …After the CSU loss, the Patton and Roby had a "come-to-Jesus meeting," and Roby is playing extremely well since. Heading into the game, Roby was in the top 15 in the Big 12 in scoring, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, rebounds, assists, steals, 3-point percentage, 3-pointers made, assist-to-turnover ratio and defensive rebounds. …Still no word on Julius Ashby's eligibility. He is waiting for professors to post all his grades to find out if he'll become eligible for remaining games. Patton was non-committal on if he expected Ashby would be pronounced eligible after missing the first semester become of grade issues. …The tea