Colorado was in big need of a bounce-back week after two straight losses dropped them to ninth in the Pac-12 standings. A bounce-back week is exactly what they got.
The Buffs dominated Cal and Stanford this past weekend, putting on both offensive and defensive clinics for the home crowd.
Here are three takeaways from Colorado’s get-right weekend as they attempt to climb back into Pac-12 relevancy.
J’Vonne Hadley is out for the year
Arguably the only negative thing to come out of this weekend’s wins was the loss of big man J’Vonne Hadley.
Hadley exited the Cal game early on Thursday night with what appeared to be a hand injury. After a quick trip back to the locker room, Hadley would be ruled out for the rest of the game.
It was then confirmed in the coming days that Hadley’s hand injury would sideline him for the rest of the season.
The JUCO transfer had been the Buffs leading rebounder and third-leading scorer this season. Hadley’s injury thins out a CU frontcourt that already lacks traditional big-man depth.
“One of our leading rebounders and one of our big men is out,” said Tristan da Silva. “That’s really affecting the game on defense so everybody has to step up.”
Colorado fared well in the first full game without the 6-foot-7 junior. Jalen Gabbidon made his fifth start as a Buff and filled in nicely. The Yale grad transfer was credited with an impressive block, as well as adding five points of his own in the win over Stanford.
Luke O’Brien also played a meaningful twenty minutes. He tied a career-high in made three-pointers with three and added five rebounds.
When asked about Gabbidon and O’Brien’s new expanded roles, head coach Tad Boyle did not sugarcoat anything.
“They’re key,” said Boyle. “Their roles are going to become so much more significant.”
Colorado is going to continue to look for solid performances from them as they head toward the home stretch.
Tristan da Silva totals his fifth straight 20+ point game
When sitting here coming up with takeaways, it’s been impossible to not continue to give Tristan da Silva his flowers.
The junior forward continues to shine on the offensive end, scoring his fourth and fifth straight 20-plus point games. The last Buff to string together that many games of 20+ points was Josh Scott in 2015.
These 20-point performances are becoming clockwork for the Buffs’ standout, who credited his team for the impressive scoring streak.
“I’m a player that lets the game come to him so I’m not really trying to force anything,” said da Silva. “I’m trying to be aggressive, but I got a great group of guys around me who trust me and try to make plays for me.”
Da Silva “letting the game come to him” has resulted in not only impressive scoring outputs, but efficient ones at that.
The junior out of Germany opened up the second half against Cal scoring CU’s first 12 points. In this five-game stretch, da Silva has shot north of 58% from the field. When teams are leaving him open he’s draining threes, and when they’re closing out on him he’s able to make one swift move to the basket for a nice inside finish.
“[Tristan’s] basketball IQ is off the charts,” said Boyle. “He’s playing with unbelievable confidence and unbelievable poise.”
It’s critical that da Silva continues to play at the level he’s currently playing at as the Buffs enter a crucial next couple of weeks.
Colorado has their best offensive performance in Pac-12 play
CU has treated Buff Nation to multiple impressive outings this season: 103 against Texas A&M, and 93 against CSU. But Colorado has been lackluster offensively in conference play.
That was until Sunday when the Buffs put up 84 points against Stanford – a season-high in Pac-12 play.
45 of CU’s 84 points were accounted for by the dynamic duo of KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva. This was the pair’s first game both totaling 20+ points since the Southern Utah game back on December 21st.
“When [KJ] and Tristan are playing at the level they played at today, we’re tough to beat,” said Boyle. “It’s a team effort, but Tristan and KJ were pretty darn good today.”
Simpson specifically showed great poise in his 21-point performance. The sophomore guard saw his outside shot wasn’t falling, so he shifted his game to driving inside for looks. That shift resulted in 11 free throw attempts – all of which he made.
“If it’s not falling then just attack. That’s my mindset,” Simpson said.
CU as a whole shot a season-best 94% from the line on Sunday, converting 17 of their 18 attempts. Efficient shooting totals like that are the difference between mediocre scoring performances and having their best offensive performance in league play.
Colorado looks to take the momentum from this get-right weekend into a quiet week. The team travels to Utah where they will play their lone game of the week this Saturday.
Coverage for that game begins at 8 pm on FS1.