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After lull, CU Buffs men’s basketball back in action against CSU Bakersfield

CU seeks more consistency before KU, Pac-12 play

 University of Colorado Boulder’s Jabari Walker gets the steal on Milwaukee’s Patrick Baldwin Jr. during the December 10, 2021 game in Boulder.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)
University of Colorado Boulder’s Jabari Walker gets the steal on Milwaukee’s Patrick Baldwin Jr. during the December 10, 2021 game in Boulder.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)

It’s never the easiest week to manage, balancing final exams with a sudden lull in the competitive schedule.

Following last week’s win against Milwaukee, the final contest before that lull for the Colorado men’s basketball team, head coach Tad Boyle noted that while it’s a challenging week for the players, it’s a welcome week for coaches.

After playing the first 11 games of the season within a month, the Buffaloes’ brief December hiatus consisted of eight days between games. Boyle said last week it’s the sort of opportunity that allows teams to shore up early weaknesses without the burden of game-planning for the next opponent. Asked on Friday if his club had taken advantage of that opportunity, Boyle offered a definitive “We’ll see.”

It’s not that CU’s leader believes the Buffs slacked off this week. Quite the contrary. Yet any assessment judging just how well CU took advantage of the week needs to be held off until after the Buffs get back into the swing of things on Saturday afternoon at home against Cal State Bakersfield.

“The practices have been good. Spirited,” Boyle said. “We’ve worked on a lot of shooting, a lot of half-court execution, a lot of transition offense. Defensively, I like where we’re at. We’ve done a good job. We’ve had an 80 percent defensive rebounding clip going for three games. Eighty percent of their missed shots, we want to make sure we get. We’ve done that for three games in a row. We need to make it four in a row.”

Saturday’s contest marks the Buffs’ final mid-major foe scheduled for the regular season. Afterward, the slate again intensifies, with a visit from No. 7 Kansas on Tuesday followed by the resumption of Pac-12 Conference play on the road in Oregon over New Year’s weekend.

“We’re just taking it a game at a time. We haven’t even discussed Kansas yet,” CU senior guard Elijah Parquet said. “We’ve been struggling a bit on offense, so this week we made sure we got a lot of reps up and shots up with our position group. I feel like we made good strides in that aspect. (Finals week) is a grind for sure, but every team in the country has to go through it. And now, we’ve just got basketball for the next three weeks. Now is the best time to be a basketball player. Just work and games.”

With his team having displayed improved defense in the pre-lull wins against Eastern Washington and Milwaukee last week, Boyle did not issue any if-we-don’t-play-well-we’ll-lose proclamation as he did ahead of the Eastern Washington game. Yet Bakersfield’s deliberate pace (the Roadrunners average just 67.1 points per game) and balanced production (the top four scorers average between 9.2 and 9.9 points per game) nonetheless will offer a challenge to a Buffs team aiming for more consistency before the more demanding turn in the schedule.

“They’re a half-court-oriented team,” Boyle said. “They grind you on offense. They guard really well. They’re really well-coached. They’re 12-deep. They play a lot of different guys. And they’re a physical defensive team. You have to be able to limit turnovers and you have to be able to make shots against these guys. You’re going to have to work for everything you get. This is not going to be an easy game for us offensively.”

CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners at CU Buffs men’s basketball

TIPOFF: Saturday, noon, CU Events Center.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Networks; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: CSU Bakersfield 4-3; Colorado 8-3.

COACHES: CSU Bakersfield — Rod Barnes, 11th season (167-155, 353-344 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 12th season (241-146, 297-212 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: CSU Bakersfield — G Kaleb Higgins, So., 9.9 ppg;  G/F Justin McCall, Sr., 9.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg; G/F Justin Edler-Davis, R-Sr., 9.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg. Colorado — F Jabari Walker, So., 14.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg; F Evan Battey, R-Sr., 13.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg; G Keeshawn Barthelemy, R-So., 11.0 ppg, 2.8 apg.

NOTES: This is only the third meeting between the programs, and the first since a home-and-home series in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. Both those games were won by CU…The Buffs will attempt to shake off a shooting slump in which they have shot just .219 (16-for-73) on 3-pointers over the past four games. The six CU players with the most 3-point attempts — Walker, Barthelemy, Tristan da Silva, KJ Simpson, Elijah Parquet, and Nique Clifford — are shooting a combined .261 from the arc (41-for-157) this season…The Buffs and Roadrunners have faced one common opponent, as both squads have played at Pac-12 favorite UCLA. CSU Bakersfield suffered a 37-point loss against the Bruins in the season opener, while the Buffs suffered a 12-point loss on Dec. 1…CU senior guard Elijah Parquet is 12-for-19 (.631) over the past four games…Buffs sophomore reserve Luke O’Brien has quietly put together a solid stretch, going 6-for-8 during the past three games. O’Brien is coming off a career-best nine points against Milwaukee…CU completes its nonconference schedule on Tuesday in a much-anticipated showdown at home against No. 7 Kansas (7 p.m., ESPN2).