Big crowd awaits Buffaloes at BYU’s Marriott Center
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.