Big crowd awaits Buf­faloes at BYU’s Mar­riott Cen­ter

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pat Rooney

boul­der» A lit­tle more than two weeks ago, the Colorado men’s bas­ket­ball team split two games against qual­ity na­tional com­pe­ti­tion at a neu­tral NBA arena in New York.

Last week, the Buf­faloes used a dom­i­nant sec­ond-half surge to sub­due a small, mildly rau­cous gym at the Univer­sity of Port­land.

But the Buffs have yet to play be­fore any­thing re­sem­bling a hos­tile op­pos­ing crowd. That should change Satur­day night, when CU vis­its Brigham Young for the first time in 61 years in a na­tion­ally tele­vised game (ESPN2) at 8 p.m.

Through five home games at the Mar­riott Cen­ter, BYU’s av­er­age home at­ten­dance is 14,447. The big­gest crowd the Buffs have drawn was 8,715 for last week’s home game against Colorado State. Away from home, the big­gest crowd CU has drawn was 6,780 in one of the neu­tral-floor games against Notre Dame.

It’s not a stretch to an­tic­i­pate Satur­day’s at­ten­dance in Provo, Utah, be­ing more than twice that fig­ure.

“That’s why you play these non­con­fer­ence games, to get in these en­vi­ron­ments and test your­self, see where you’re at,” said CU coach Tad Boyle. “A power five school with three true road games on their sched­ule ... there’s not many. But we’re do­ing it be­cause one, we’re a vet­eran team and we need to learn to win on the road. And this is a good, qual­ity op­po­nent and a tough at­mos­phere.”

The Buffs are com­ing off their most im­pres­sive per­for­mance of the sea­son, a 68-66 vic­tory over No. 13 Xavier at the Coors Events Cen­ter on Wed­nes­day. For a CU team that has counted in­con­sis­tency as one of its pri­mary short­com­ings dur­ing the non­con­fer­ence sched­ule, build­ing on that vic­tory af­ter a short turn­around while head­ing into a for­mi­da­ble at­mos­phere might be the Buffs’ last big chal­lenge be­fore Pac-12 Con­fer­ence play be­gins New Year’s Day.

“It’s a true road game, so there’s go­ing to be a lot of at­mos­phere and it’s the first time we’re re­ally go­ing into a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment,” said se­nior for­ward Wes­ley Gor­don. “It’s go­ing to be a good test for us.”

CU han­dled BYU a year ago in Boul­der, post­ing a 92-83 vic­tory over the Cougars. BYU re­mains a high-scor­ing team, av­er­ag­ing 86.6 points per game. But af­ter be­ing a perime­ter-ori­ented team led by since-grad­u­ated guard Kyle Collinsworth, the Cougars have be­come a stronger in­side force thanks to the play of 6-foot-10 sopho­more for­ward Eric Mika.

Mika leads the Cougars with av­er­ages of 21.4 points and 8.7 re­bounds.

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