Colorado’s men’s basketball team got off on the right foot in their season opener against UC Riverside on Monday evening.

The Buffs beat the Highlanders 82-66 where multiple newcomers impressed and familiar faces delivered performances that Buff Nation has come to expect.

Head coach Tad Boyle is in his thirteenth season as Colorado’s leader and provided great insight on what went well and what needs to be improved after Monday’s win.

Here are three takeaways from CU’s home opening win.

All three incoming transfers had an immediate impact

The Buffs welcomed three veteran players this year via the transfer portal. The most impactful of the three on Monday was without a doubt J’Vonne Hadley.

Hadley led the Buffs in points (16) and rebounds (8) in his first game for CU. UC Riverside was unable to match Hadley’s energy on both sides of the floor.

Colorado basketball fans took to social media immediately to sing praises about Hadley, Boyle was not surprised.

“Our crowd is going to fall in love with Javon Hadley, if they haven’t already,” Boyle said. “I’m telling you, he brings [energy] every day. That’s what makes him special.”

Hadley played at Indian Hills Community College last year and spoke about how that experience prepared him to make an impact as he makes the leap to the PAC-12.

“I really found my confidence at junior college, but I’ve always had that sort of grit to me,” Hadley said. “That’s one of the biggest things that I’m coming with every single night, just proving that I belong here and can play at this level.”

Yale transfer, Jalen Gabbidon, was also impressive and more than capable in his first game as a Buff.

Gabbidon came off the bench but had 12 points, one rebound and two assists. His greatest impact was on the defensive side of the court which made things difficult for UC Riverside’s star point guard, Zyon Pullen.

Pullen still put up 17 points on 50% shooting but had four turnovers.

The energy brought to the floor by Hadley and Gabbidon was palpable and the former Yale Bulldog was encouraged by what he experienced in his first game at Colorado.

“It’s no secret that, for this level, we’re a little undersized,” Gabbidon said. “But we have the athleticism and the skill to back it up.”

Gabbidon also proved that his basketball intelligence, vision and passing skills will make an impact for the Buffs as he found Javon Ruffin on a sweet dump-off under the basket late in the first half.

The on-court chemistry was apparent for Gabbidon, but he has been more impressed with how this team gels off the court.

“I feel like I’ve been here for years with these guys,” Gabbidon said. “The way we interact in the locker room and the way we hang out off the court and that chemistry we have, this is a phenomenal team.”

The last of the three transfers, Ethan Wright joined the Buffs via Princeton. Wright also came off the bench and only scored four points in his Buff debut but both of those field goals were crucial to the early lead Colorado built over UC Riverside.

It was just a glimpse of things to come from Wright but he was willing to mix it up in the paint and prove that he can take the hits and make plays for this basketball team.

Coach Boyle emphasizes his belief in Lawson Lovering

Last year, Lawson Lovering missed the final 15 games of his freshman season with a knee injury. Now he is healthy and ready to be a force for the Buffs in the paint.

It was an underwhelming return to the floor for CU’s only seven-footer but Boyle is preaching patience.

“Right now [Lovering is] just getting a little sped up, he’s going to be fine,” Boyle said. “He’s going to be a weapon down there for us. Lawson’s value to this team is, a lot of people may not see this, on the defensive end.”

Lovering struggled on the offensive side of the court, scoring only four points and hitting 1/7 field goal attempts. He added three rebounds, two assists and two steals to his stat line but also had two turnovers.

“He’ll have better nights than he had tonight, but I thought he was a little sped up and rushed,” Boyle said. “He’s got to slow down and take his time.”

Friday night will be another test for Lovering as the Buffs travel to Grambling, Louisiana to take on the Grambling State Tigers.

Carte’Are Gordon, Grambling State’s 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward, put up a double-double and led the Tigers in points (18) and rebounds (14) in their first game against UNT-Dallas.

Lovering will play a massive role in how well the Buffs are able to compete against Tennessee on November 13th and against the PAC-12’s best in conference play.

Where CU must improve according to coach Boyle

While under Boyle’s lead, the Buffs have shown an emphasis on rebounding and defense. In the post-game press conference after the Buffs’ win, Boyle made sure to mention those areas and Colorado’s need to improve at both.

UC Riverside outrebounded the Buffs 44-43 and beat Colorado in terms of offensive rebounds 15-12.

Boyle singled out the Buffs’ rebounding and ability to fight through ball screens as the areas Colorado will need to work on early this season.

With Evan Battey and Jabari Walker taking their talents to the next level, the Buffs’ ability to grab boards was the main concern for this team coming into the season.

While Hadley had a great night on the glass, Lawson Lovering and Tristan da Silva must have more of an impact as rebounders.

CU got out to a lead early but UC Riverside was able to fight back and take a one-point lead midway through the first half.

UC Riverside’s point guard, Zyon Pullen’s presence brought NBA scouts to the CU Events Center on Monday. Boyle praised Pullen and how he played against the Buffs but also said that Colorado could learn a thing or two from him.

“We can learn a lot from their point guard,” Boyle said. “The way he uses ball screens, gets downhill and makes some really, really good decisions.”

Friday night is a double-header for CU sports. The Buffs’ basketball team will take on the Grambling Tigers at 6 p.m. with the football team taking on USC at 7:30 p.m.

Author

Jake Schwanitz was born in Harlingen, Texas and was raised in Albuquerque, NM. Jake attended the University of New Mexico earning a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2016. He gained experience in analytics and scouting while working as a Football Video Scout at Sports Info Solutions in 2017 and 2018. Jake became an intern at DNVR in 2020 and became the full-time CU Buffs beat reporter for DNVR starting with the 2022 football season.

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