National Invitation Tournament Recap - Colorado vs California

Colorado 89, California 72

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The Colorado Buffaloes, more than any other Division I college basketball team in America, had a right to complain about their treatment on Selection Sunday. To their credit, they’re not sulking or moping in response to their situation.

The best team not playing in the NCAA Tournament is taking names in another postseason event. As a result, the CU crew is the first ballclub to punch a ticket to the NIT quarterfinals. The Buffaloes authoritatively dismissed the California Golden Bears on Friday night at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colorado, earning a berth in the NIT’s round of eight. One more win – on Tuesday, March 22 against either Fairfield or Kent State – will send CU to New York for the NIT semifinals.

Colorado won this game for two basic reasons. First, coach Tad Boyle’s club committed only five turnovers compared to 13 for Cal. Colorado didn’t surrender a single turnover until just after the 11-minute mark of regulation time. Going 29 minutes without a single turnover is a way to win basketball games. Colorado attempted 15 more field goals than the boys from Berkeley (68 to 53), so when one realizes that both teams were fairly even in shooting percentages (CU owned a narrow edge in field-goal shooting, 45.6 percent to 43.4 percent), it was the stack of additional possessions that truly added up for the home team. The plus-eight turnover margin was one source for Colorado’s extra possessions; the other source was a 15-8 advantage on the offensive glass. CU didn’t give away the ball, and it kept several possessions alive by crashing the backboard.

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As a result of the Buffs’ boldness, CU’s star players were able to get lots of good looks at the basket. Alec Burks scored 25 points for Colorado while teammate Cory Higgins threw down 22. Burks hit 11 of 12 free throws on Friday while Higgins drained 8 of his 15 field-goal tries. Colorado led by only eight points on a few occasions in the second half, but when Cal’s star guard Jorge Gutierrez left the game with an injury (not to return), the Bears’ hopes of a comeback essentially evaporated. Colorado pulled away by the time the under-four-minute TV timeout arrived. The final minutes ticked away without any drama whatsoever.

If there were any fears in the Colorado camp about a letdown in the wake of the NCAA’s hard-to-understand snub, such worries were dispelled on Friday. Colorado faced an easy foe in the NIT’s first round; Texas Southern was not going to put up much of a challenge. It was this game against Cal that was truly going to measure the Buffaloes’ appetite for NIT combat. Clearly, Boyle’s boys showed that they want a plane ticket to New York and a nice consolation prize after missing out on the NCAAs.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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