The Colorado men’s basketball team ran the entire season with 12 players on scholarship, one less than the full quota.
The Buffaloes have also been forced to watch two of the team’s most vaunted recruiting class, Quincy Allen and Javon Ruffin, remain sidelined due to injury. A third sophomore, guard KJ Simpson, was unavailable on Sunday due to a concussion three days earlier against Washington State.
However, despite those setbacks, the Buffs are a team that considers depth a strength. Julian Hammond III and Luke O’Brien showed why during CU’s 78-64 win over Washington at the CU Event Center.
Hammond, who once again filled Simpson’s place, enjoyed the best match of his young career against the Huskies. And while O’Brien didn’t score, his contributions were decisive as the Buffs steadily moved away from the UW.
“We had some really good minutes from Luke O’Brien,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “Julian Hammond played good minutes off the bench. Nick Clifford continues to advance. The depth of this team is starting to grow.”
Hammond came in big after Simpson was sidelined Thursday against WSU, finishing the game with five rebounds, four assists and four steals in 14 minutes. Against UW on Sunday, it was Hammond’s shooting touch that provided CU lift. Hammond went 4-for-4 three-pointers before ending the season with 14 points.
O’Brien went goalless, but in the nine minutes of the first half, the sophomore from Columbine contributed four assists and three rebounds in just nine minutes. O’Brien finished with five rebounds and four assists in his career and also made two great games – first hitting a potential offensive rebound from a UW player before the ball bounced out of bounds, then later ripping off an offensive rebound from a losing free throw.
“(Hammond) does this consistently in practice,” CU’s Jabari Walker said. “It’s no surprise when it comes to match time. He can take over training hitting three times in a row, and get everyone involved. He’s like a glue man. He does whatever you need from a guard position.”
As he did earlier in the week, Boyle played down the significance of his 300th career win, which he secured on Sunday. Including his four seasons as head coach in northern Colorado, Boyle is 300-212 overall and 244-146 in his 11-plus seasons in CU. Boyle is on track to break the Sox Walseth Show’s record of 261 wins early next season.
“All he means is that I trained good players and had good assistant coaches,” said Boyle. “I am very fortunate to be the head coach in Colorado. But our players, you can’t win without good players. We have to keep recruiting, we have great kids from great families. We have to carry on that mantra as we go. But it’s just a number.”
CU beat Washington 38-20 in paint… UW’s Cole Bagema, a former transfer from Michigan, has started the Husky’s road trip with a 3-for-19 on 3-pointers this season. But Pajima went 5-for-8 by three in a win in Utah, and followed that up with a 6-for-7 showdown against the Buffs, giving him an 11-for-15 wild ride… Despite his 22-point run, sophomore Tristan da Silva also had a Four of 14 turnovers in CU and he made seven turnovers in the previous two games… With five points and four rebounds, Evan Bate tied with Austin Duvolt for 32nd on CU’s all-time scoring list (1,076) and Scott Welk tied for 26th on the list Recoils at all (576).