St. Mary's plays in the West Coast Conference, where it's picked to finish second behind perennial power Gonzaga. St. Mary's is coming off an NCAA Tournament at-large bid last season.
Colorado came out slow and fell behind 7-2 before waking up. It appeared the Bright Lights and Big City NBA court caused the Buffs to forget basketball is a team game for the first 10 minutes. Several NBA scouts were in attendance, as well, and head coach Ricardo Patton said afterwards some of his players were probably thinking about that.
Once CU players started moving the ball on offense and turning up the effort on defense, however, they pulled away from the Gaels for a 40-26 lead at the break.
St. Mary's got within nine in the second half, but behind the shooting of Richard Roby, who was 10 of 20 from the field, including 4 of 7 from beyond the arc, the Buffs kept the Gaels at bay.
Daniel Kickert led St. Mary's with 22 points.
CU moved to 2-1 on the season with the win.
• Freshman Calvin Williams had an impressive stint late in the first half. First he blocked a Kickert shot. Later, the 6-7 forward skyed for three rebounds, and converted a bucket after the third. After he raced across the court and got a hand on a would-be pass, the hustle drew Ricardo Patton off his chair. The effort earned the rookie playing time in the second half, too. He looks like a player who doesn't need the ball in his hands to make an impact on the game. Williams ended with a team-high seven rebounds, four points and one block in 18 minutes.
• St. Mary's had just four assists, half of what Marcus Hall dished out to teammates. Hall started at point guard in place of Dominique Coleman. Patton said afterwards there was a discipline issue with Coleman that prompted the move. Coleman played 25 minutes and was effective getting to the hole in the second half.
• Seniors Glean Eddy and Antoine McGee didn't get into the game until around the 5:30 mark in the second half. Senior Lamont Arrington saw his first action of the season in mop-up time, logging three minutes late. Meanwhile, walk-on senior Scott Senger was off the bench early. Patton said Senger had earned the minutes in practice.
Q: Your shot looked a lot better than it has this season. How much have you worked on it since the CSU loss?
RR: I've been working on it a lot. I've been in the gym night in and night out. After everybody leaves, I'm in there by myself just trying to get my game right. I knew if I came and played the type of game I knew I could play, we'd have a chance to win.
Q: Did you feel the faster tempo – St. Mary's couldn't keep up with that pace?
RR: Yeah, that's what we wanted to do, we wanted to pressure them a little bit and try to hurry them up. They try and slow the game down and try and beat you down low. So we knew if we could get a lead, it would be hard for them to come back. We wanted to keep on running.
With 7-footers, you have to make them run up and down the court. Those big guys don't like to run.
Q: You said you've been trying to get your game right. What's been wrong with your game?
RR: After the type of freshman season that I had, there was a lot of pressure on me to perform well. It's all going to my head a little bit. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I just realized that it's not about myself, it's about the team. That just eased my mind a little bit so I could go out there and play this game I love.
I had a meeting with coaches and our team had a meeting after CSU. We all just put things in perspective.
Good team effort. I thought early in the game we had NBA-itis playing in the Pepsi Center for the first time. Sometimes that happens with guys. And when you have a team full of seniors – they knew there were NBA scouts in the stands. Sometimes guys put undue pressure on themselves to perform. That hurt us early in the game, but then we settled down and realized we had to play better defense, and our offense came around.
Q: You had seven different guys with at least four rebounds. Was that emphasized going in?
RP: Anytime you play against a team that size, you're worried about controlling the boards and not being dominated on the glass. We certainly wanted to get our share of rebounds. We ended up outrebounding them (47-42). And we 17 offensive boards. Watching film from them from last season, I felt we could go to the offensive glass a little bit.
Q: Did you want a fast pace?
RP: Yeah, I thought we had to. I didn't think that we could come down and play for 40 minutes in the half court and just battle against those big guys in the middle. So we wanted to extend our defense a little bit.
Q: Richard was talking about feeling the pressure before the season. How do you take pressure off a kid like that?
RP: He mentioned a team meeting we had. We just discussed some things. I am very candid with guys. I thought that he had some external factors that were keeping him from performing. And he did. Guys have different elements tugging at them. And of course after last season and him being on NBA teams' radars, it's just a lot of pressure on a kid. So basically we just told him that will take care of itself.
He's just got to go out and play. I didn't think he had played hard; I didn't think he was looking to score as much as he did tonight. He was an offensive threat a lot better than he was in our last game.
On the spark Calvin Williams provided
RP: Calvin hasn't not played because of anything he's done wrong. He's just a young guy and he's very raw, but he's a really good athlete. He's going to be really good in time. He's just learning and trying to find his way into the lineup. One of things he can do is rebound the basketball.
Q: You inserted Scott Senger into the lineup early. Was that a matchup thing you saw, or a reward for working hard in practice?
SS: Scott's been playing well. I think Scott has a very good basketball IQ. He's undersized in there sometimes, but he will battle. I just think he's a guy that's probably going to play quite a bit now. He does a nice solid job. He's not going to do anything flashy. He's just going to make the basic, fundamental plays. Sometimes you need a guy out there that you can count on to do the things that you work on every day.
Points: Richard Roby 29
Rebounds: Calvin Williams, Roby 7
Assists: Marcus Hall 8
Turnovers: Dominique Coleman, Hall 3
Blocks: two with 1
Steals: Roby 3
Points: Daniel Kickert 22
Rebounds: Brett Collins 11
Assists: four tied with 1
Turnovers: Rafael DaSilva 5
Blocks: four tied with 1
Steals: two tied with 2
Colorado State fended off Denver 64-58 in the first game of the Colorado Classic on Saturday. The double-header event drew 5,035 fans. ... Kenyon Martin was courtside to watch his brother, Roby, play, as was fellow Denver Nugget DerMarr Johnson. ...The Buffaloes hit the road to play Penn Tuesday.