BOULDER – It was a pace Colorado was unable to maintain.
And yet the opening salvo against UC Riverside Monday night offered a glimpse of how efficient CU men’s basketball can be if it shares the ball.
CU opened its season with an 82-66 win against the visiting Highlanders, a prelude to a demanding two-week road trip that will give the Buffs an early gauge of where they stand.
Riverside certainly didn’t make things easy for the Buffs but CU put on a passing clinic early, recording assists on eight of its first 11 field goals.
“Sharing the ball — with our depth, with our balance…the first thought for the day every year since I’ve been here for the 13th year now is, ‘It’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit,’” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “If our players can play like that and think like that, we’ve got a chance to be pretty good this year.”
CU finished with 15 assists, a total compiled through a collective effort. KJ Simpson and J’Vonne Hadley led the Buffs with three assists apiece. Three other players — Lawson Lovering, Nique Clifford, and Jalen Gabbidon — each recorded two.
Simpson posted all three of his assists early, part of a strong start for the sophomore point guard that ultimately was dimmed by a team-high four turnovers.
“When I was in the recruiting process, coach (Tad) Boyle told me this is a program where you’re not going to have to worry about the character of the guys. This is the most unselfish group of guys you can find,” said Gabbidon, a graduate transfer from Yale. “Since I’ve been here, that’s been the truest statement ever. I feel like I’ve been here for years with these guys.”
The Buffs will have to be better on the glass and defensively during a five-game trip that begins Friday at Grambling State (6 p.m. MT, ESPN+) and continues in Nashville on Sunday against No. 11 Tennessee (noon MT, ESPN).
“The biggest thing is just being locked in, night in and night out,” Hadley said. “We’ve got to just execute and we’ve got to take care of our schoolwork too and stuff like that, too. Both on-the-court stuff and off-the-court stuff. It’s going to be a challenge. It’s our first long road trip. We’ve just got to know it’s a business trip, and we’ve got to take care of business.”
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