New Mexico 54, Colorado 47

Effective on defense but out of sync on offense, the Buffs dropped their home opener — and Jeff Bzdelik's regular-season debut as head coach at CU — to New Mexico 54-47 in front of a record crowd in Boulder Friday night.

The first play of the game provided a glimpse of the future. Freshman guard Cory Higgins denied New Mexico senior leading scorer J.R. Giddens the ball, then stole it and scored on a layup on CU's end of the court.

The next 39 minutes 40 seconds displayed the reality of the present. Colorado's "Princeton-style" offense is new, and it's not yet ready for prime time. Or, at least, not ready for being effective against a well-coached veteran team like the New Mexico Lobos.

The Buffs sputtered their way to 34 percent shooting — just 21 percent from beyond the arc — and had five more turnovers than assists (15-10). It wasn't that it was always ugly. It was more like watching soccer.

Hold your breath. Keep holding. Hold it a little longer. Just a little longer. Keep holding. Hold it. Hold. Hold. Ho…SHOT, miss, other way.

After CU's two exhibition opponents played strictly zone defense, New Mexico mixed things up. And Colorado played mixed up. Confusion made its way into too many of their possessions. Cuts weren't sharp. Shots weren't falling with any consistency.

"We looked like deer in the headlights. Unsure," is how Jeff Bzdelik described it.

But anyone paying attention should have seen it coming. After all, this is a team trying to run a completely new style of offense, one that requires both discipline and instinct. It's going to take a while before the Buffs are able to run it without having to think too much about how to run it.

Just as obvious as the offensive shortcomings was the fact Colorado played better defense than it did at any point a year ago. Led by Higgins — a freshman that already appears to be a major steal for those who follow recruiting — the Buffs showed resolve and hustle on the defensive end. Remember, this is largely the same Lobo personnel that scored 106 points on the Buffs last November.

"Defensively, we competed," Bzdelik said. "We made enough stops to win."

Higgins was especially impressive on defense, holding Giddens — New Mexico's leading returning scorer — to just four points. Two of them, though, came after CU had cut the lead to three points with 1:01 to play. After trailing by low double digits most of the second half, Colorado scraped its way back into the game down the stretch. But Giddens, with Higgins in his face, hit a bigtime 15-footer to take the air out of the crowd and help keep the Buffs at bay.

CU's leading returning scorer, meanwhile, matched his career low. Senior Richard Roby took only three shots in 33 minutes, and ended with one point.

New Mexico coach Steve Alford said his team's goal was to make CU shoot jumpers.

"We respected their dribble-drive game," he said.

Alford added they had hoped to force CU to take 30 three-point shots. He was on to something. Colorado took 19, but made just four.

"I was just trying to get my shots in the flow of the game," Roby said. "I probably could have been more aggressive."

True enough. Roby will learn. And the offense will come along as players continue to work it. If these two teams met again in March, you might very well see a different outcome. Bzdelik, in fact, said after the Buffs gave this one away.

"I think we had more to do with losing this game than New Mexico had (to do with winning it)," he said.

THE NUMBERS
Colorado
Points: Marcus Hall 11
Rebounds: Hall 6
Assists: Hall 4
Turnovers: Richard Roby 5
Blocks: Roby, Marcus King-Stockton 2
Steals: Cory Higgins 3

New Mexico
Points: Jonathan Wills 13
Rebounds: Chad Toppert 9
Assists: Darren Prentice 4
Turnovers: Daniel Faris 6
Blocks: J.R. Giddens 2
Steals: two tied with 1

NOTES
The official attendance figure was 8,372. That broke the Coors Events Center figure for a CU men's regular-season opener. It was a pleasant surprise for the CU veteran players used to nearly empty gyms until January. They appeared grateful. Bzdelik and Hall each had words of praise for the crowd, and also apologized the Buffs didn't get them a win. …Bzdelik lamented the fact CU didn't run the ball up court more often on change of possessions. He really wants his guards to push the pace at all times.


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