Colorado Basketball: Can they rebound from Arizona loss?

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Ouch…. That is really all that explains Colorado’s loss to Arizona on Saturday night for a Buffs fan. ESPN College Gameday came to preview the basketball game, along with the Duke-Syracuse game earlier in the day. Granted, this game had a lot more hype when Colorado had guard Spencer Dinwiddie two months ago. This game was a definite letdown after watching the barn-burner between Syracuse and Duke.

Colorado started off very slowly by not making a field goal until 9:50 left in the first half. A large part of that was the absence of leading scorer Josh Scott. Senior Ben Mills got the start as a result of Senior Day. It was evident in the first couple minutes that Colorado did not have their leading rebounder, Scott. They gave up numerous offensive rebounds and put backs. The score at that point was 22-5 until freshman guard Jaron Hopkins made a three pointer.

Arizona came out on a mission defensively. They were very active by getting into passing lanes, blocking shots, and forcing Colorado to take bad shots. Arizona got lots of easy layups as a result of their stingy defense. Colorado only shot 6-27 from the floor by halftime. Colorado made a run at the end of the half to get it within six, 31-25.

Arizona guards T.J. McConnell and Nick Johnson controlled the game. They collectively shut down Colorado’s best guard Askia Booker by keeping him to 10 points on 4 of 14 shooting. Booker needed to have a great game for Colorado to win, and Arizona created a game plan to neutralize him. It was clear Arizona had a longer and more athletic team than Colorado.

In the second half, Arizona continued their dominating defense. Aaron Gordon took over in the second half by getting offensive rebounds and getting out in the open floor where he’s best. He led Arizona in scoring with a career high 23 points and 8 rebounds. They shot 84 percent in the second half, capping off the embarrassing loss for the Buffs.

Colorado has three Pac-12 games remaining at Utah, Cal, and Stanford. They begin their road streak at Utah next Saturday. Utah has been playing well recently with a 23 point win against Arizona State at home. Before that they played Arizona down to the wire, until losing by 9 points. Colorado will have a tough time beating Utah at home. They are more inclined than other Pac-12 teams though because the Buffs play at elevation as well.

Utah has very strong guard play in Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge. Wright is second in the Pac-12 in assists and leading the team in points with 16.3 a game. Colorado will need to shut down both these guards if they want a good chance at winning.

Colorado then travels to the Bay Area to play Stanford and Cal. Colorado is one game behind both these teams in the loss column for second place in the Pac-12. These games are huge for Pac-12 tournament seeds. Arizona has practically clinched the Pac-12 regular season title, so many teams are fighting for seeds. If the Buffs were able to clinch the second seed, they would set themselves up well to make the Pac-12 finals.

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