CU Buffs mens basketball earns first back-to-back wins of season with rout of North Alabama The Denver Post

Facing its lowest-rated foe so far this season, the Colorado men’s basketball team took care of business.

The Buffaloes used a decisive first-half run to pull away from North Alabama, posting an 84-60 victory on Thursday night at the CU Events Center. The win inched the Buffs above .500 at 6-5 and gave CU its first back-to-back victories of the season.

It also was win No. 260 for head coach Tad Boyle at CU, leaving him within one victory of tying Sox Walseth’s program record going into Sunday’s home date against Northern Colorado.

“Coming out of finals, you never know what you’re going to get from your team emotionally, and how sharp they’re going to be,” Boyle said. “Not often do you win by 24 — and statistically, I think there was some really good things tonight — but you feel like your team could’ve played better. That’s how I feel about tonight’s game. We fouled too much but they struggled at the free throw line worse than we do. That helped us, but we’ve got to learn to play without fouling.”

North Alabama stayed close early, but the Buffs used a 12-0 run during the first half to help build a 42-28 edge at halftime. The Lions rallied to within 11 points midway through the second half, but CU shut the door on the comeback by responding with an 18-3 run.

Despite entering the game at No. 264 in the NET, North Alabama arrived at CU with an offense averaging 78.7 points while shooting .487 from the field. The Lions were held 19 points under their scoring average and finished with a season-low field goal percentage of .389. Lions leading scorer Daniel Ortiz, who entered the game averaging 13.7 points with a lofty .468 3-point percentage, was held to a 1-for-5 mark from the arc with only seven points.

CU point guard KJ Simpson drew the opening defensive assignment against Ortiz, though Jalen Gabbidon marked Ortiz frequently as well. Both teams attempted 27 free throws, with North Alabama (13-for-27) struggling even worse than the Buffs (17-for-27).

However, the Buffs shot .508 from the field, topping 50% for the second consecutive game and the third time this season.

“Just building on that Colorado State game (last week), we realize the reason we were able to win was because of our defense,” Simpson said. “We kind of prioritized a lot of defensive things in practice. They’ve got some good scorers out there. They’ve got some good play-makers. So it was important for us to lock in on defense, be in the gap, help and things like that.”

It was a monster game for CU junior forward Tristan da Silva, who set new career-highs with 25 points, nine rebounds, and three steals. Simpson added 12 points along with a career-high-tying six assists, while forwards J’Vonne Hadley and Luke O’Brien scored 11 points apiece. O’Brien’s six rebounds included a career-high five offensive boards.

“I was just trying to make the right plays on offense,” said da Silva, who went 11-for-18 overall and 2-for-4 on 3-pointers. “Since everyone was sharing the ball, somehow it always came back to me and I got some wide-open looks, shot those and knocked them down.

“It was good to get back-to-back wins where we kind of dictated with our defense. Coach talks a lot about that, and making teams uncomfortable with our defense is definitely a strength of ours.”

Snapshot: CU Buffs vs. North Alabama

Turning point: CU scored 12 consecutive points in the latter stages of the first half to take control.

Buff of the game: Tristan da Silva. The junior forward set career-highs for points (25), rebounds (nine) and steals (three) while going 11-for-18 from the field.

What’s next: Head coach Tad Boyle will have an opportunity to tie Sox Walseth’s program record for coaching wins when the Buffs host Northern Colorado on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

COLORADO 84, NORTH ALABAMA 60

NORTH ALABAMA (6-5)

Forrest 4-8 1-6 9, Howell 2-3 2-2 8, K.Johnson 5-11 5-6 16, Ortiz 3-10 0-2 7, Soucie 0-3 2-2 2, Braster 1-2 0-0 2, Brown 1-6 0-0 2, Dawkins 1-3 1-3 3, Kuhl 2-2 1-2 6, Lane 1-3 1-4 3, Agbaosi 1-3 0-0 2, Nelson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-54 13-27 60.

COLORADO (6-5)

da Silva 11-18 1-1 25, Lovering 0-0 3-8 3, Clifford 0-2 0-1 0, Hadley 5-6 1-3 11, Simpson 4-11 4-5 12, Gabbidon 2-4 3-3 8, O’Brien 4-6 2-2 11, Hammond 2-7 3-3 7, E.Wright 0-2 0-1 0, Ruffin 2-3 0-0 5, Allen 1-2 0-0 2, Miller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-61 17-27 84.

Halftime — Colorado 42-28. 3-Point Goals — North Alabama 5-13 (Howell 2-3, Kuhl 1-1, K.Johnson 1-2, Ortiz 1-5, Brown 0-1, Soucie 0-1), Colorado 5-19 (da Silva 2-4, Gabbidon 1-2, O’Brien 1-2, Ruffin 1-2, Allen 0-1, Simpson 0-1, Clifford 0-2, E.Wright 0-2, Hammond 0-3). Rebounds — North Alabama 32 (Ortiz 8), Colorado 42 (da Silva 9). Assists — North Alabama 7 (K.Johnson 3), Colorado 14 (Simpson 6). Total Fouls — North Alabama 23, Colorado 21. A — 5,125 (11,064).

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