After hanging close to Colorado for the entire first half, Auburn was able to trim its deficit to four points (49-45) with 13:13 remaining in the game. Despite not having the services of guard Antoine Mason, who was held out due to an ankle injury suffered in the Tigers’ win over Milwaukee Friday night, Bruce Pearl’s squad was able to hang around thanks in large part to the play of guard K.T. Harrell (20 points) and power forward Cinmeon Bowers.
Unfortunately for Auburn the 13:13 mark was also when Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes began to improve their execution on both ends of the floor, with Colorado going on a 26-1 run that put the game well out of reach. Colorado would go on to win by the final score of 90-59, with their focus on getting the ball inside being the reason why.
Starters Josh Scott (17 points, nine rebounds), Xavier Johnson (17 points, five rebounds) and Wesley Gordon (16 points, 12 rebounds) led the way offensively for the Buffaloes, and after struggling to do so in the first half Colorado took advantage of its edges in both front court size and depth in the second half. Colorado finished the game with 42 points in the paint, with 24 of those coming in the game’s final 20 minutes.
What hurt Colorado in the first half was their “refusal” to consistently work the ball inside, and while they did manage to score 18 points in the paint and shoot 10-for-16 from two the eleven three-point attempts (making four) were too many considering the fact that Auburn didn’t have much bulk in the post outside of the undersized but tough Bowers (11 points, 13 rebounds).
In the second half Colorado attempted just three three-pointers (making one), and they shot 16-for-23 from inside of the arc. And points-wise, 41 of Colorado’s 52 second-half points were scored either in the paint (24) or from the foul line (17; 17-for-20 FT). The Buffaloes have both depth and skill in their front court, and when they work the ball inside consistently this is a tough team to defend.
Because not only can guys like Scott and Johnson convert those opportunities, with Gordon being very good as an offensive rebounder, but it also opens things up on the perimeter. Askia Booker scored all nine of his points in the second half (seven during the decisive run), and reserve guard Jaron Hopkins contributed on both ends of the floor against the Tigers. The addition of Dominique Collier, who sat out the first two games for disciplinary reasons, will help Colorado at the point guard position moving forward.
But regardless of who’s on the perimeter, Colorado will be at its best when there’s a concerted effort to get the ball inside. That occurred in the second half Tuesday morning, resulting in the Buffaloes pulling away from an undermanned (and ultimately overmatched) opponent.