The Colorado Buffaloes went through the first part of their schedule not facing a ranked team. Now they are going to play their second straight game against a Top 25 squad.
Colorado will host No. 13 Tennessee on Saturday afternoon with the hopes of having a better performance on its home court than it did at UCLA on Wednesday night. The Buffaloes hung tough after falling behind early against the No. 5 Bruins before falling 73-61.
Now they quickly pivot to the Volunteers, who are 5-1 — their only loss to No. 6 Villanova. Playing another quality opponent in a short time will be a challenge for 6-2 Colorado.
“We knew about the early Pac-12 schedule this week, and we already had Tennessee in the books, so we knew it was going to be a tough week,” Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said Wednesday night. “This was the toughest game, and UCLA was tougher.
“This is an opportunity for us to learn. We’ve had an opportunity to win some games and learn. Now it’s time to learn from a loss. Usually, from a player’s standpoint, that’s when the learning takes place.”
The Buffaloes got another strong performance from Jabari Walker, who notched his fifth double-double with a season-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. Walker has stepped up as a go-to player so far this season, as has Keeshawn Barthelemy and Evan Battey. Walker has scored in double figures in all eight of Colorado’s games and is the team’s leading scorer at 14.9 points a game.
The Buffaloes will have to contain the Volunteers’ offense, which is averaging 82 points a game. Tennessee, coming off an 86-44 rout of Presbyterian, uses a balanced lineup to beat teams. Ten players average 10.3 minutes or more per game and none of them are averaging more than 30 minutes a game.
Santiago Vescovi, the team’s leading scorer at 15.5 points a game, is playing the most minutes at 27.8 per game.
While Colorado has three players scoring in double figures, Tennessee has four players averaging 10.2 or more. One who is not scoring at a high rate may soon change that if his performance against Presbyterian is an indication.
Victor Bailey Jr., who is in his second year with the Volunteers after transferring from Oregon, has struggled with his shot this season. Before the win over Presbyterian on Tuesday, Bailey had scored a total of 21 points. But he had a small breakout game Tuesday, with 14 points.
His teammates didn’t lose faith in him.
“VJ is always good in practice,” Justin Powell said. “He’s always hitting shots in practice. He had flashes of that last year. VJ, he’s still trying to figure out what he’s going to do best out there. Obviously he’s a great scorer.”
He found his stroke from behind the arc, going 4-for-8 on 3-pointers, after making only three in the first five games.
“It was just a matter of time before we felt VJ would get going,” coach Rick Barnes said.
–Field Level Media