Unafraid Buffs get off to fast start

Sunday, February 3, 2008

— Seven times Richard Roby has played against Kansas University, and seven times the Colorado senior has, well : KU has won 37 of its last 38 men's basketball games against the Buffaloes.

In most of those 37 defeats, Colorado was never in the game. Saturday, the Buffs never really were out of it.

"Nobody was scared," Roby said. "Everybody was ready to play, and we got a great start."

After bolting to leads of as many as seven points in the first 20 minutes, the Buffs hardly looked like a team that had dropped six of its last seven games.

Freshman guard Cory Higgins certainly had no fear. Higgins took five shots in the first half and made them all, including a three-pointer.

"There is no surprise we can play with them," Higgins said. "I was surprised we were successful in that first half."

So was everybody else, but it soon became apparent the Buffs had peaked. Their big men were accumulating fouls, and their bench was thinned by the absence of starting guard Xavier Silas, a 10.2-points-per-game scorer.

Silas was a late scratch for undisclosed reasons.

"Coach's decision," CU coach Jeff Bzdelik said when asked why Silas didn't play. "I'll leave it at that."

As it turned out, the Buffs wouldn't miss Silas until the second half when the backcourt regulars needed a breather, and Bzdelik's well was dry. Guards Marcus Hall, Higgins and Roby logged 40, 39 and 38 minutes, respectively.

Without fresh legs and lungs, the Buffs couldn't climb out of the hole they dug during the first five minutes of the second half. When the first TV timeout came at 14:41, Colorado had zero points. CU was 0-for-6 from the field and committed four turnovers.

"The first three possessions we got to the rim," Bzdelik said. "We did what we were supposed to do, and we just came up short."

All three of those shots were blocked.

"Give Kansas credit," Bzdelik said. "Kansas came up with great defensive plays, and their 8-0 run gave them the separation they needed."

Nevertheless, Colorado closed to within three points (51-48) on a Roby jumper with 8:18 remaining. At that stage, the Buffs had momentum. But they ran out of steam.

"They are not the No. 2-ranked team in the country for no reason," Bzdelik said. "They're talented, they're deep, they're confident. We have no margin for error, and they wore us down."

A crowd of more than 10,000 that seemed to be composed equally of Kansas and Colorado fans wasn't, Bzdelik said, an unusual experience for him. He had experienced similar crowds while he was an assistant coach at Northwestern.

"In Chicago, every Big Ten school has a large alumni following," Bzdelik said, "and it was like that for every game."

All Bzdelik could ask Saturday was for his players to give it their best shot.

"The first thing we put on the board was, 'No Regrets,' to leave it all on the floor," the CU coach said, "and I believe they did that today."