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The Buffs started 2023 with a bang!
After a head-scratching loss at Cal, the Buffs traveled back to the CU Events Center to face both Oregon schools.
Tad Boyle and company dismantled both the Ducks and the Beavers at home, getting back to .500 in conference play. Here are the three takeaways from an encouraging weekend up in Boulder.
Colorado’s defense showed up and showed out this past week in a historic weekend for the program.
The Buffs’ starting five came out aggressive from the tip, suffocating the Ducks on offense and allowing only 19 points in the first half; the lowest total allowed in a half all season.
The defensive effort continued the next 20 minutes, as the Buffs would only surrender 22 more points to Oregon in the second half; the second-lowest total in any half this season. By far the best 40 minutes of defense the Buffs had played all season long. But they weren’t done yet.
CU built upon their defensive effort against Oregon in the first half against the Beavers. The Buffs gave up only 18 points to Oregon State in the first half; once again a new season low for a half.
All in all, the Buffs gave up 83 total points over the two-game stretch. Those 83 points were the lowest amount given up in back-to-back conference games since 1949.
“The key is keeping the intensity level up and the focus level up for 40 minutes,” said Boyle. “You get into conference play and you lock people down like we have the last two games, good things happen.”
Tristan da Silva credited the defensive improvement to this past week of practice.
“In practice, we’ve been going back to the basics defensively especially,” said da Silva. “For us, it just comes down to guarding the ball, being a gap help, and then being an outside too and then knowing our rotations.”
Tristan da Silva shines
It was another big week for the junior out of Germany.
After a disappointing outing out West, da Silva bounced back in a big way against the Ducks and Beavers.
The 6-foot-7 forward set a new career high in points last Thursday night against Oregon, scoring 30 points to go along with seven boards.
This was da Silva’s third time setting a career-high in points in the last six games.
“He is a matchup problem for other teams,” said Boyle. “Especially when he’s at the five because now he can pick and pop, he can be on the perimeter, and he can drive the big guys.”
Tristan followed up his career-high 30 with a team-high 17-point outing against the Beavers. These two performances were much needed by the veteran forward, as the Buffs’ leading scorer KJ Simpson, was unable to make his mark in the point column in either game.
The Buffs will need da Silva to build upon these efficient offensive performances and continue being a matchup nightmare outside of the CU Events Center.
Board man gets paid
7-foot, 7-foot, 6-foot-11. Those are the heights of Oregon’s big men. Despite the impressive height on that Ducks’ squad, CU was able to out-rebound Oregon 46-28.
A lot of that dominance on the glass can be attributed to Luke O’Brien. The 6-foot-8 Junior set a career-high in rebounds versus the Ducks, pulling in 11 total rebounds.
O’Brien also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds in the win against Oregon State.
“Luke’s giving us everything he’s got effort-wise. He’s active — He gets his hands on a lot of balls,” said Boyle. “I love his activity. His confidence. He’s not playing afraid to make a mistake.”
Colorado’s increased effort should be applauded after the dominant performances this past weekend, and Luke O’Brien might be the poster child for CU’s recent uptick in effort.
“I thought at Cal I had zero rebounds and I took that very personally,” said O’Brien. “This week in practice, that’s what I did, I was boxing out. Some of the rebounds came to me but that’s been a very big focal point for me this year.”
Role players like Luke O’Brien beginning to find a larger identity on this squad could spell success for a Buff’s team still trying to assemble some form of consistency in conference play.
CU hits the road this week, with their next game at USC on Thursday. Coverage starts at 7 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.