Colorado 78, CCU 58

Friday's game with Nebraska will mark Senior Day for the Colorado football team. Tuesday it was freshman day for the CU men's basketball team as three frosh were in the starting lineup when the Buffs hosted Division II Colorado Christian. The Buffaloes won 78-58.

While first-year player Cory Higgins has started each game this young season, head coach Jeff Bzdelik told freshmen Levi Knutson and Caleb Patterson they'd be in Tuesday's starting lineup during the team's shoot around earlier in the day.

Knutson had played significant minutes in the team's first four games, but for Patterson, the 6-11 player from Enid, Okla., it was some much needed court time.

"Caleb has been doing a real nice job in practice," Bzdelik said about the decision to start the young big man. "The time was right. He gives us some size in there, which we need."

Patterson matched up against CCU 6-11 sophomore Justin Neuhaus, and looked tentative in the first half. But Patterson found some confidence during a second half stretch that included a reverse lay-up and a dunk off a high-arcing pass from a teammate. He finished with seven points, five rebounds in 22 minutes of play.

Knutson came into the game averaging eight points an outing, and had nine points and four assists. Higgins added six points.

The win moved the Buffs to 3-2 on the year. However, the win vs. a D-II opponent doesn't count toward the team's RPI, nor is it recognized by the Division I when doling out tournament berths at the end of the season.

The game got off to a slow start, at least on the offensive end. The score was 3-3 after four minutes of play. CCU took a 12-10 lead at 12:43 prompting a loud cheer from the CCU fans in attendance and a timeout from the CU bench.

The teams traded leads for the next several minutes before senior Marcus Hall sparked the Buffs. He had two steals and 13 first-half points and Colorado took a 37-27 lead into the locker room.

CU easily padded its lead in the second half. Hall led all scorers with 21 points. Richard Roby and Dwight Thorne also scored in double figures with 18 and 13 respectively. Rory Morgan and Brian Stamer led the Cougars with 13 points each.

The win came after the Buffs went 2-1 in a tourney in Madison, Wis. Despite its winning record in the three-day event, the Buffs played sloppily, turning the ball over 53 times in three games. Taking better care of the basketball has been a point of emphasis in practice of late, and CU was better in the turnover game, but still far from perfect. They ended with 13 turnovers and 17 assists.

Hall, the senior point guard who missed all of last season, put the turnover problem squarely on his shoulders Tuesday.

"It's starts with me," he said. "I've done a horrible job (taking care of the ball). Four turnovers a game is not acceptable."

Hall, who was averaging 3.9 miscues a game, had just one Tuesday. Though keeping the heat on his team, Bzdelik was a little more forgiving of Hall than Hall was with himself. Bzdelik reminded people Hall did not play last year, and has already endured thumb surgery and an elbow, which knocked two of his front teeth out this season.

(Hall lost the teeth in the second game in Wisconsin. He has played since the injury with his two teeth missing. He had hoped to have dental surgery to replace the teeth this week, but will have to wait until next week because of Thanksgiving. He said he's playing without pain).

While Knutson figures to be a regular contributor going forward, whether or not Patterson becomes a regular in Bzdelik's rotation remains to be seen. The level of competition will rise in the coming weeks, with road games at Denver (Nov. 27) and Air Force (Nov. 29) set for next week.

But Hall said he liked what he saw from the rookies Tuesday.

"Both of those guys have proven they're ready for the opportunity," he said. "I thought they did well."

STAT LEADERS
Colorado

Points: Marcus Hall 21
Rebounds: Dwight Thorne 6
Assists: Thorne 5
Turnovers: Six with 2
Blocks: Four with 1
Steals: Hall, Thorne 2

CCU
Points: Morgan, Stamer 13
Rebounds: Stamer 10
Assists: Jordan Long 4
Turnovers: Peter Baily, Long 4
Blocks: Neuhaus 2
Steals: Long 3

NOTES
Sophomore Xavier Silas, CU's leading scorer (13.5 ppg) through the first four games, was in street clothes. He missed the game after suffering a leg contusion in practice Monday. He's expected back to practice Friday and expected to play next week when the Buffs travel to DU . …If Jeff Bzdelik had the option, he wouldn't have played the CCU game. The Division II opponent was a leftover from departed coach Ricardo Patton's scheduling. …Speaking of scheduling, it's now official that the Buffs will play in the Maui Invitational in 2009. The prestigious preseason tourney will also feature Arizona, Chaminade, Gonzaga, Louisville, Maryland, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin.

• Sophomore guard Dwight Thorne had been playing tentative this season. In an effort to shake him from that, Bzdelik sat him for the Wisconsin game. Bzdelik and Thorne spoke about it Tuesday. Thorne responded with perhaps his most effective outing as a Buffalo. He had 13 points, six boards, five assists and two steals in 28 minutes.


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