Sunday, January 16, 2005

Buffs stunned by support — for KU


— With just one senior gracing Colorado's men's basketball roster, five newcomers who get significant playing time and with a fan base that constantly struggles to fill up the Coors Events Center, Saturday's 76-61 loss to Kansas University in front of 11,057 fans opened eyes wider than dinner plates.

Especially considering close to 6,000 of the fans were KU faithful.

"It was remarkable," CU freshman Richard Roby said. "I felt like they were the home team at some points during the game. They get great support, and it's a great program. I guess that's how they do it."

It certainly is how KU does it -- in every way, from the crowd support to the second-half surge that put the overmatched Buffalos in the loss column for the third time in three Big 12 Conference contests.

After Colorado inched within one point at 45-44 midway through the second half on two Marcus Hall free throws, KU's seniors once again cracked their knuckles, took the rock and erupted for a 9-2 run to go up 54-46.

The Buffs never had the lead within reach again, despite admirable efforts from Chris Copeland (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Roby (14 points, four rebounds).

"Sometimes you're just overmatched," Colorado coach Ricardo Patton said. "They're not the No. 2 team in the nation for no reason. But we had our chances."

The half-and-half crowd swung like a pendulum with whichever team had the momentum, despite the fact KU never trailed in the second half. Prior to Saturday's sellout, the largest crowd of the year at the Coors Event Center was 6,031 against Colorado State.

CU has drawn as few as 1,961 to a game this year, but Jayhawk supporters apparently tripled that number by themselves Saturday -- a fact that impressed and aggravated Patton.

"I actually thought there were more Kansas fans here today (than in the past)," Patton said. "One time, when Kansas came out before the game, the cheers seemed to circle the arena. I've seen it in the back corner, but now it went around the whole gym.

"I understand why people support Kansas. It's a tradition-rich program, it's a bordering state. My only wish is that Kansas fans would embrace two teams, and when we're not playing their favorite team, they would still embrace the home team."

It hasn't happened yet -- which is why many of CU's newcomers were awestruck about the crowd they played in front of Saturday.

The Buffalos (8-6 overall, 0-3 Big 12 play) now have a two-game road swing before returning to business as usual at Coors against Missouri on Jan. 26.

Whether that's played in front of a half-empty arena remains to be seen.

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