Improvement across the board the goal as Colorado men’s basketball hits game week

The Colorado men’s basketball team did plenty of good things in the preseason finale Sunday night against Nebraska.

The Buffaloes also know they have a lot to work on.

Yet good or bad, for every impressive play or mental mistake, the message was the same afterward from head coach Tad Boyle. It’s officially game week, and the positive components that were on display during CU’s 72-61 win against Nebraska in a charity exhibition will need to improve right alongside the shortcomings.

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CU was off on Monday, but when the Buffs reconvene on Tuesday they will set their sights on the Nov. 7 season opener at home against UC Riverside.

“It’s game week. We’ve got to have spirited, competitive practices,” Boyle said. “That’s one thing I’ll say I think about this team, there’s not a big gap between the first unit and the second unit because of our depth. Our quality depth. Guys (off the bench) like Javon Ruffin and Ethan Wright. Jalen (Gabbidon) came off the bench for us. We’ve got some really good players. Luke O’Brien.

“We don’t always go first unit/second unit in practice. In fact we’ve only done it like two or three times. …I think one of the reasons we’ve had success here in our scrimmages against opponents, is our practices have been pretty good and spirited.”

Among the positives on Sunday night for the Buffs was their rebounding. J’Vonne Hadley, Nique Clifford and O’Brien shared the team lead with eight rebounds apiece, leading the Buffs to a 44-35 rebounding advantage. Seven-foot-one sophomore Lawson Lovering grabbed five in just under 20 minutes. O’Brien (five offensive rebounds), Lovering (three) and Hadley (two) all were factors on the offensive glass.

Nebraska shot .413 overall, but the Buffs’ perimeter defense generally was active and limited the Cornhuskers to a 6-for-25 mark from the arc. CU shared the ball well, with 13 assists.

The Buffs didn’t shoot the ball well themselves, posting a decent overall field goal percentage of .433 while struggling to a 6-for-22 mark on 3-pointers. Yet the Buffs started the season cold from 3-point range last year and ended up leading the Pac-12. Chances are, Boyle will gladly trade a rough preseason night from the arc for a continuation of the rebounding effort his team displayed.

“We can finish better, whether it’s open 3s or at the rim,” Boyle said. “But that’s going to come in time. It’s the first time with fans. These guys are sped-up a little bit. Slowing down offensively, making extra passes and getting great shots for our team. Once our guys settle in, and feel a little bit more comfortable and confident out there, I like this team. I’ve said that from the get-go.”

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