When the Buffs take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers, it will likely be the seniors’ last game for Colorado.
After the Buffs upset the No.5 Texas Longhorns last Saturday, their hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid started to grow. But after losing to the Iowa State Cyclones Wednesday night, Colorado is now an unlikely choice for the big dance.
“I felt like we didn’t come out with the same focus in the second half [against Iowa State] like we did against Texas,” said sophomore guard Alec Burks.
The Buffs want to make the most out of their last game of the season—especially the seniors. Cory Higgins, Levi Knutson, Marcus Relphorde, Javon Coney, Trent Beckley, and Carlon Brown will be honored for their contribution to the team during Senior Night on Saturday.
“From a coaching standpoint, I look at how much I’m gonna miss coaching the guys,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “They’re all great young men.”
Boyle will remember Cory Higgins, whose 124th career game on Wednesday broke the CU record, for his leadership during the coaching transition last year.
“When I got the job, he’s a guy I really leaned on,” Boyle said. “I challenged him to keep the group together… and he really responded to that.”
Higgins has had an impressive career at Colorado, having started in every game since his freshman year. He is one of two Buffs in history with over 1,800 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists, and over 150 steals.
Teammate Levi Knutson was not always a starter. Averaging only 12.7 minutes per game his junior year, Knutson improved to 26.4 this season, and is now the team’s third-highest scorer.
“We’re gonna be telling the Levi Knutson story for years to come,” Boyle said. “He’s a tremendous role model for our younger players [in terms of] off-season work ethic… confidence, persistence, and patience.”
Marcus Relphorde, a transfer to CU his junior year, said he’s had a leadership role ever since he started with the Buffs. He’s averaged 11.5 points per game as a senior and 11 as a junior. He said he thinks the leadership with continue with remaining players, despite the graduation of strong players this year.
“I think a lot of the guys are ready to step up,” Relphorde said. “Andre Roberson has progressed a lot this year, and Austin [Dufault] and Nate [Tomlinson] are going to be seniors next year, so they’re going to carry the load pretty well.”
Burks said he will take on the leadership role if he needs to, but that older teammates will have the most responsibility.
“I’ll be a leader if the team needs me to be a leader,” Burks said. “But the seniors-to-be… want to take pride in their senior year.”
The seniors won’t be the only ones taking on Nebraska for the last time this weekend. With CU’s move to the Pac-12 and Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten next year, Saturday’s game will mark the two teams’ last conference matchup.
Boyle said his Buffs will be focusing on defense over the next few days, hoping to improve off of Wednesday’s loss to ISU.
“We’ve had some disappointing losses,” Boyle said. “When you give up 95 points… you have to go back to your basics.”
Relphorde said Nebraska also poses a strong defensive threat.
“They’re a really good defensive team, they kind of pack it in,” Relphorde said. “We’ll just try to make extra passes and try to get shots.”
Nebraska leads the all-time series against CU 77-71, and they lead the Buffs 18-13 in Big 12 play.
Saturday’s game also marks the fifth time the Coors Events Center has sold out this season, a school record that reflects the strong fan support the Buffs have harnessed this season.
Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Coors Events Center in Boulder.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Caryn Maconi at Caryn.firstname.lastname@example.org.