Burks’ big day means hope for Colorado basketball

There were too many empty bleachers near the top of Coors Events Center in Saturday’s game against Mizzou. Maybe next week they’ll be taken.

Anyone remotely interested in Colorado basketball has to be thrilled tonight with the Buffaloes’ surprising, yet thorough, handling of No. 9 Missouri on Saturday, 89-76. Alec Burks set a new career high with 36 points, and Cory Higgins contributed a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds).

Those two men alone have been big for Colorado before this season, but as a team the Buffaloes showed they were not thrown by Missouri’s aggressive pressing tendencies. Early in the game the teams traded baskets, frequently matching each other with layups in transition and some short jumpers. It looked like it might be a shootout.

But as Marcus Denmon, Phil Pressey and Kim English eventually came up way short on 3-point attempts in the first half, the Buffs continued to shoot confidently.

This is great for Tad Boyle, who is in his first year as the Colorado coach.  This program has finished last in the Big 12 too consistently, and on a day when the team’s best player was brilliant, the rest of the team was able to contribute as well. That will be a big difference in whether or not Colorado can make a significant improvement in the Big 12 standings for 2011.

Without putting too much Big 12-spin on this, Missouri didn’t play horribly. The defense was passive at times, and the Tigers’ shooting has been better this season than it was today. But players like Burks can make your defenders look bad, and when you combine that with getting outhustled a couple of times on the road, you get a loss.

Missouri is good. Laurence Bowers is really good (15 points, 9 rebounds, 8 blocks). But Colorado simply did a great job keeping Missouri from forcing turnovers in the backcourt.

Notes:

  • Colorado won its final Big 12 opener, and first since the league’s inaugural 1997 season.
  • Missouri had won 9 straight games.
  • The last time CU had beaten MU was Feb. 25, 2006.

NEXT UP:

Colorado (12-4, 1-0) must go on the road Wednesday to face Kansas State. The Wildcats lost to Oklahoma State in Stillwater this weekend, 76-62. A great start energized CU against Missouri today and is probably even more important on the road.

Missouri (14-2, 0-1) heads home for a Wednesday game against Nebraska, a team that under Doc Sadler has played Missouri very well. Mike Anderson obviously wants to force turnovers, a challenge given Nebraska’s slow, deliberate pace.

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