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By: CUBuffs.com
Freshman guard Alec Burks scored 18 points in his second collegiate game
CU's Fast Start Crushes Coppin State
Release: November 16, 2009
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor

BOULDER - The Colorado Buffaloes threw a "Welcome Back" party for coach Jeff Bzdelik on Monday night at the Coors Events Center.

Previously unbeaten Coppin State probably wished it hadn't been invited.

The Buffaloes flogged the Eagles 82-58, improving to 2-0 on the strength of a high-energy start that saw them hold their visitors to only two field goals for almost 13 minutes of the first half.

Junior Cory Higgins led CU with 21 points, while freshman Alec Burks added 18. Junior college transfer Marcus Relphorde had 14 points, six rebounds and a team-best four assists, and lone senior Dwight Thorne II contributed 13 points.

Due to a family emergency, Bzdelik missed his team's 88-72 season-opening win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Friday. He was replaced on the bench by associate head coach Steve McClain.

"It was surreal in a way," Bzdelik said of watching his team's opener live on BuffsTV. "It was a different perspective, to be honest."

The perspective he got upon returning was this: In the game he watched from afar and the one he coached Monday night, the Buffs showed him they can start efficiently but they have trouble sustaining that effort for 40 minutes.

"We had a great 20 minutes against Arkansas (Pine Bluff) and today we had 27 or 28 good minutes," Bzdelik said. "We need to sustain our energy (for a full game)."

After surging ahead by 39 points (73-34) on a pair of free throws by Relphorde with 11:02 remaining, the Buffs appeared to lose either interest or intensity - or maybe both.

The Eagles put together a 22-2 run to pull to 75-56 with 3:05 left. That stretch undoubtedly will serve as a . . . talking point, maybe . . . for Bzdelik in practices to come. 

But given how the Buffs opened, they seemed to be thinking shutout.

After Burks converted a smooth reverse layup for a 2-0 lead, CU got consecutive three-point baskets from Relphorde, Thorne, then Burks to surge to an 11-0 lead - at which point veteran Coppin State coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell called a time out.

Talking it over didn't help. Mitchell said his team "didn't come out with any type of intensity. That's when you see a lot of wide-open jump shots. Their minds weren't really there, and you have to credit Jeff's team for coming out ready to play, ready to take on the challenge."

The Eagles (2-1) didn't score their first field goal until the 15:15 mark of the opening half - and until then, the Buffs had a 15-0 lead. Getting their second field goal would require another 8:04 for the Eagles - and by then, the Buffs were up 30-10.

The half ended with Coppin State managing five field goals (22 attempts) and CU cruising 45-20.

With the Buffs ahead by as many as 28 points and never leading by fewer than 17 after the 12:03 mark of the first half, Bzdelik could tinker at will with his lineup and see who complemented whom.

At one point, he had three freshmen and two sophomores on the floor - and that lineup held its own. Bzdelik's biggest wish: That freshman guard Shannon Sharpe (out due to knee surgery) could have been among the youngsters.

"It's a shame people have to wait to see (Sharpe)," Bzdelik said. "We had a heck of a recruiting class."

Starting for the second consecutive game, the 6-foot-6 Burks, of Grandview, Mo., finished the opening half with a game-high 11 points.

His first half line: 4-of-5 from the field (1-of-1 from three-point range), 2-of-2 from the free throw line, three assists, one blocked shot, one turnover.

Bzdelik called Burks "talented, first and foremost. He's really skilled and unselfish. He needs experience, maturity and strength (but) he's a really good passer."

Burks said he came to CU "wanting to start, but I knew Nate (Tomlinson) was here. I just wanted to come off the bench and be a spark plug."

He opened the game that way, and he and his teammates didn't ease back on the throttle to open the second half either. They outscored their visitors 8-2 in the first 5 minutes of the second half and took a 31-point lead (53-22) on Burks' three-point play with 17:12 remaining.

From there, CU's advantage crept to 36 (69-33) with 12:20 to play, then 37 (71-34), then 39 (73-34) . . . leaving the final margin - and perhaps whether Buffs could keep their feet on the accelerator - the only unanswered questions.

Playing only 18 minutes in the opener because of foul trouble, Relphorde stayed clear of that Monday night and logged 28 minutes - one of seven Buffs having double-digit playing time and again putting himself among the nine who scored.

Bzdelik said Relphorde being in "five different systems the last five years" means he's still adjusting.

Despite his team's second-half lull, Bzdelik said he liked his team's attitude and passion: "Those are things we can control . . . . We are not going to shoot the ball all the time like we started shooting tonight (53.8 percent in the first half). Offense is a variable; defense and effort have to be there all 40 minutes."

The Buffs play host to Texas Southern on Wednesday (7 p.m., Coors Events Center) before heading to the EA Sports Maui Invitational for three games next week.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

Colorado Buffaloes Men's Basketball
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