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Game day notes: Nate Tomlinson discusses CU Buffs’ keys in NIT battle against St. Bonaventure

Digging up info on CU game at St. Bonaventure 80 years ago

Former Colorado guard and staff member Nate Tomlinson, now an assistant at George Mason, is familiar with the Buffs’ NIT first-round foe, St. Bonaventure. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Former Colorado guard and staff member Nate Tomlinson, now an assistant at George Mason, is familiar with the Buffs’ NIT first-round foe, St. Bonaventure. (Photo by Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Nate Tomlinson hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

Contacted on Monday by a familiar reporter from his old job hoping to pick Tomlinson’s brain a little regarding St. Bonaventure, the former Colorado guard took a deep breath and replied in an even tone:

“Well, before I go on, as I told Tad when he called, my allegiance to the Atlantic 10 now outweighs my allegiance to the Buffs.” There was a dramatic pause. “Nah, I’m just kidding. How you doing, mate?”

Tomlinson, also a former staff member at CU under head coach Tad Boyle, just completed his first season as an assistant at George Mason alongside first-year head coach Kim English, a former Buffs assistant. The Patriots are league rivals with St. Bonaventure, which visits the CU Events Center for a first-round game in the NIT on Tuesday night (9 p.m., ESPN2).

George Mason and St. Bonaventure met once during the regular season, with English, Tomlinson, and former Buffs player D’Shawn Schwartz recording a 75-66 win on Jan. 26. Schwartz went 7-for-12 with five 3-pointers and 20 points.

Tomlinson says the Bonnies are a senior-heavy team long on experience but short on depth. Part of the CU team that reached the NIT Final Four in 2011, Tomlinson believes the combination of a short turnaround, altitude, and a tipoff time at 11 p.m. ET should give the Buffs a decisive advantage.

“They’ve obviously played together for a long time and they know each other really, really well,” said Tomlinson, who still instinctively calls the Events Center by its name from his playing days. “But they only really play five guys. I think at altitude, on one day’s notice, I think they’ll struggle coming to Coors and playing the uptempo game the Buffs want to play.”

Tomlinson’s NIT Final Four team felt snubbed from its omission from the NCAA Tournament and used that frustration to post consecutive home wins against Texas Southern, Cal, and Kent State before losing a one-point heartbreaker against Alabama in the semifinals. Since the NIT rarely, if ever, is the destination teams aim for in November, Tomlinson believes the mental component becomes critical.

“The more aggressive teams, the teams that are playing with more enthusiasm, more energy, generally tend to get the job done,” Tomlinson said. “You sometimes are playing in arenas that are only half-full or whatever the case may be, so the teams that play with that kind of energy this time of tend to win the games.

“In ’10-11, we were obviously very disappointed to not make the tournament. We kind of sulked and pouted about it for a couple of days and we were really, really lucky to get by that first game. Once we snapped back in, we had a chance to send our seniors, Cory Higgins and guys like that, out as champions, there’s only really two teams that get to do that. Your last game can be a win. That’s pretty damn cool.”

Dusting off archives

BuffZone was unable to track down statistics from CU’s only other meeting with St. Bonaventure, a Buffs road win on Jan. 1, 1942. Here’s a little historical context nonetheless.

In a shortened, war time season, that New Year’s Day date was just the third game of the year (the Buffs didn’t play any games the next two seasons). It was part of a long season-opening road trip that started at St. Joseph’s (Pa.) before rolling through St. John’s, St. Bonaventure, and Loyola Chicago. Under coach Forrest B. Cox, the Buffs went 4-0, eventually starting the season 14-0 in a 16-2 campaign that ended against Stanford in the Final Four of what was then an eight-team NCAA Tournament.

Courtesy of the St. Bonaventure media relations office, here is an excerpt from a report of the game from the Jan. 9, 1942 edition of the St. Bona Venture sports page (count this reporter a fan of the term “basketeers”).

“The Colorado basketeers boasted Robert Doll as one of their foremost (illegible), and he came through with (illegible)teen points. Combined with Hamburg and McCloud, the trio could not be halted.”

No first names were reported, but that was a reference to George Hamburg, who played for CU from 1939-42, and Leason McCloud (also ’39-42). The report continued:

“The New Year’s Day encounter was a disastrous one for the Bona cagemen. Although Bernie (illegible) netted fourteen points for the losers, St. Bonaventure’s play was not impressive and their opponents were ‘hot.’ The lead went immediately to Colorado, and there they kept right on (illegible).”

The report was followed by a rundown of the latest bowling scores.


For the first time since the end of the 2019-20 season, it will be mask-optional at the Events Center for the NIT game…Boyle has reached a few additional contract incentives this past week. After reaching 19 regular season wins ($30,000), CU’s coach also is set to receive $75,000 for reaching the Pac-12 semifinals and $30,000 for reaching the NIT…The Buffs are 13-10 all-time in the NIT…CU senior Evan Battey is set to play in his 132nd game, which will break a tie with Cory Higgins for fourth all-time. CU’s top three leaders in career games played: Austin Dufault (136), Xavier Talton (135), and Askia Booker (134).