Buffs' best start in 8 years

Colorado nearly blew a 16-point lead in the second half and was out-rebounded 32-25 by a SWAC team. Jeff Bzdelik, however, still believes his team deserves and is ready for a working vacation in hoops paradise.

Colorado will pack a 3-0 record -- the program's best start to a season in eight years -- for the EA Sports Maui Invitational next week after holding on for an 88-77 victory over Texas Southern on Wednesday at the Coors Events Center.

"This team is well coached that we played and very athletic," Bzdelik said of the Tigers, who were without leading scorer Whitworth Treasure (24.0 ppg). "They had 17 points off the offensive glass. ... We just have to do a better job there."

Cory Higgins and Alec Burks each scored 23 points, including some clutch baskets down the stretch after a 16-point second-half lead was cut to two points by the pesky visitors. Marcus Relphorde added 11 points.

Bzdelik wishes the crowd of 4,678, especially the vocal students section, could all spend Thanksgiving break in Maui with the Buffs.

"Our students are awesome. They really are," said Bzdelik, whose team is actually enjoying a homecourt advantage so far this season, despite being picked to finish last in the Big 12 by the coaches. "We need them and they're a big part of our basketball team. We're just going to play hard and with enthusiasm and passion. I'm not going to promise anything beyond that. But we appreciate our students and our fans."

CU led by nine points (41-32) after an 8-0 run and took a 43-26 advantage into halftime when Keegan Hornbuckle grabbed an offensive rebound and calmly splashed a mid-range jumper at the buzzer.

"I thought Keegan gave us some good minutes," Bzdelik said. "He's active and he's long and he's athletic. Again, you look at this team with one senior, as it gets stronger we're going to be pretty good."

A 3-pointer by Nate Tomlinson, who has played well in his new role as the sixth man, gave the Buffs their largest lead (59-43) with 14:28 remaining. But after a 3-pointer by Justin Ray, back-to-back buckets by DeAndre Hall, and a nice post move by Aaron Clayborn, the visitors were suddenly within 71-69 with 4:52 left.

"I think it's good because it's a wake-up call for Maui," Burks said.

Burks, a true freshman, made a 3-pointer with 3:41 left in the game to make the score 76-69 afetr Higgins had eased the tension with a key basket.

"It was good for us," Higgins said of being tested after opening the season with blowout wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Coppin State. "We know we're going to be battling every minute of every game in Maui."

The Buffs play Gonzaga in the first round of the Maui Invitational next Monday (1 p.m., ESPN2).


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