Buffs Say They Won't Let Up

Colorado is off to its best start in over 25 years, sporting an 8-1 record. The Buffs have the opportunity to get to 10 wins before they open conference play on the road at Texas Jan. 7. With Big 12 play looming, coaches and players alike are saying the right things: They're not looking ahead. Next up is Dartmouth on New Year's Eve afternoon (1 p.m., Coors Events Center). CU fans will see a familiar face on the Dartmouth bench, as the Big Green is coached by former CU assistant Terry Dunn.

Colorado has two non-conference games remaining, and plays them in the next four days. If you put any stock in the RPI, both of CU's next two opponents are among the weakest teams in the country. Dartmouth is 1-8 and has an RPI of 319 through Thursday's games. Savannah State, who CU hosts Jan. 3, is 0-12 and has an RPI of 330 (out of 334 teams).

Who could blame people in the CU program if they were peeking past Dartmouth or Savannah State on to the Big 12 schedule, which for Colorado begins at Texas and home vs. Kansas? But they don't seem to be.

Here's what three members of the CU basketball program said about the topic after Friday morning's practice:

Assistant coach Paul Graham: "What we try to tell our team is, ‘Let's not get ahead of ourselves.' We're off to the best start we've had in years. We've got a chance, if we take care of business before we get to Texas (Jan. 7), to go into the league at 10-1. But you can't get to 10-1 unless you beat Dartmouth, and you can't get to 10-1 unless you beat Savannah State. We'll worry about the Big 12 once we get there."

Junior guard Marcus Hall: "We're taking it one by one. You've got a lot of teams in our league that have lost chippy games. Maybe they looked ahead. With the 8-1 record, and an opportunity to be 10-1, we can't let up."

Senior guard Jayson Obazuaye: "Texas is going to be there. When it's time to get ready for them, we'll get ready for them."

Of course, there's a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. But these Buffs have been walking the walk, at least through nine games. So far, they've displayed a tougher mentality than in recent seasons.

In 2004, Utah blew out the Buffs in Salt Lake City 80-48. CU returned the favor earlier this month with a 76-52 win in Boulder. Last season, the Buffs went 1-3 on the road during their non-conference schedule. They reversed that this time, going 3-1 away from Coors in the non-conference slate.

Hall even points to how the Buffs beat hapless Mercer last week, when they put a 117-74 drubbing on the Bears at Coors. He compared the win with the 2004 win over Gardner-Webb.

"Maybe last year we would have (beaten Mercer) by 20 points with our starters playing (under 15 minutes)," Hall said. "We won by (43) points. That just shows the difference between this year and last year. I don't think that (Mercer) team is worse than Gardner-Webb, and we beat them by nine or 10 points last year."

As for Dartmouth, Graham says they're a team that's better than their 1-8 record. The Big Green lost by just six points to New Mexico earlier this week in The Pit, New Mexico's home court, a notoriously difficult place for visitors.

But more than that, Graham said he expects Dartmouth will be excited to play the Buffs because it will be Dartmouth head coach Terry Dunn's first trip back to Coors since he left CU, where he was an assistant under Ricardo Patton for eight seasons.

"One thing for sure, Coach Dunn will have his team ready to play this particular basketball game," Graham said.

Dunn took over Dartmouth prior to last season, and coached them to a 7-7 record in the Ivy League after Dartmouth had posted a dismal 1-13 record the season before Dunn's arrival. He was one of Patton's best recruiters over the years at CU, and helped recruit several of the players on the Buffs' current team.

Though Dunn didn't recruit Obazuaye, the guard lit up when asked about Dunn on Friday.

"It'll be good to see Coach Dunn again," Obazuaye said. "He helped me with my game a lot when he was here."

Asked if he will feel bad for Dunn if the Buffs beat his team, Obazuaye laughed and said, "No, not at all."

Probable starters
Colorado

F Chris Copeland, Sr., 6-8, 235, 13.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg
F Andy Osborn, Sr., 6-9, 225, 8.9, 4.6
G Jayson Obazuaye, Sr., 6-2, 205, 9.6, 5.2
G Richard Roby, So., 6-6, 195, 17.3, 5.3
PG Marcus Hall, Jr., 6-1, 185, 9.1, 4.8 apg

Dartmouth
F Chuck Flynn, So., 6-7, 210, 6.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg
F Johnathan Ball, So., 6-4, 204, 6.0, 2.5
F Alex Barnett, Fr., 6-5, 185, 2.8. 1.1
C Paul Bode, Jr., 6-9, 230, 3.7, 3.4
G Michael Giovacchini, So., 5-11, 155, 8.0, 2.0

Holiday Hustle
The team had four days off for the Christmas holiday following their win over Mercer Dec. 22. The players were able to spend the holiday at home, whether they were from Colorado or out of state.

For Obazuaye, it was the first time in his four years at Colorado he's been able to get home for Christmas due to the team's schedule in recent years.

Obazuaye went home to San Jose, Calif. He said he played some pickup with friends and got in a workout at a local gym over the break. Junior guard Marcus Hall spent Christmas back home in Houston and played some one on one with his cousin, who was home from Europe where he plays professionally.

After the break, the team hit it hard when the players returned. Two practices on Wednesday and two on Thursday helped ensure they worked off any extra calories from Christmas dinners.

The two-a-days were also intended "to get your rhythm back, to make sure guys get their shot back. We've won seven games in a row," Hall said. "We don't want to blow that in any type of way."

While Hall was in Houston, he said most of the talk was about Texas football, and the Longhorns' national title game with USC. (Hall is boyhood friends with UT running back Selvin Young). But Hall said once football is over, more of the state's attention will turn to basketball. He said some people in his hometown are taking notice of what the Buffs have done, especially with CU's Jan. 7 game with Texas on the horizon.

"I know a lot of people from Houston who are anticipating us going up there (to Austin) to see what we can do," Hall said.


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