A week after coach Tad Boyle called his team “not very good” after the Buffs held their annual black-and-gold scrimmage, they got another chance to show him what they were actually capable of in their first real competition of the year: an exhibition game against the Colorado School of Mines.
Despite getting off to a slow start, the Buffs were able to come back and win, 66-57.
“Closed scrimmages are nice, but to get in front of fans, there were some nerves, there was some rust,” Boyle said post-game. “It’s good to get that out of our system. I’m happy that we don’t open up until November the 13th, we got 10 more days to get better and improve upon some things.”
With the new year comes new faces, and a few Buffaloes saw their first minutes on the hardwood at the CU Events Center. Transfer Shane Gatling and freshman Daylen Kountz, Eli Parquet, and Evan Battey all sported Buffaloes uniforms for the first time.
The Buffaloes came out aggressive, with most of their early opportunities coming off of fast breaks. Despite getting good looks near the rim, the Buffs failed to convert a lot of their early layups. Whether it was the interior defense from the Orediggers or the Buffs just playing too fast, CU struggled to consistently find the bottom of the basket in the first half.
As a team, the Buffaloes shot 31 percent from the floor in the first half, and shot just 2-for-8 from beyond the arc. The Orediggers came out firing from beyond the arc, hitting 6-of-12 in the first half. Mines’ precision from 3-point range combined with the Buffs’ missed opportunities near the rim left them trailing 33-27 at the end of the first half.
“We’re a better shooting team than we showed tonight,” Coach Tad Boyle said.
The Buffs shot the ball better in the second half than in the first, as they came out in the second half with a newfound focus, taking the lead back thanks to a 12-3 run to begin the half.
The Buffaloes were missing the services of 7-footer Dallas Walton, who tore his ACL early in the preseason. In the absence of Walton, Tyler Bey started at power forward while Battey got the starting nod at center.
Battey, who was redshirted by the NCAA last year and also suffered a stroke, made his long-awaited debut in a Buffs uniform.
“He got emotional at one of our practices the other day because he’s finally back. [The NCAA] took two years from him, which we don’t think they should have done, and it sucks but we’re glad to have him back,” McKinley Wright IV said. “It’s going to be a fun year with him.”
Coach Tad Boyle ensured that it’s only up from here for Battey, who shot 2-for-10 from the field on Saturday.
“The Evan Battey we’ve seen from the first 20 practices wasn’t the Evan Battey you saw tonight,” Boyle said after the game.
Bey was a presence in the paint for the Buffs, shooting a high percentage while also leading the team in rebounds with 11. With Battey still trying to work out the kinks and Siewert mostly relegated to three-point shooting, Bey could be the most consistent inside threat for this year’s Buffaloes.
The Orediggers didn’t make it easy on the Buffs in the second half, as they clawed back thanks to several threes. Once the game got close though, it was Wright IV who really helped the Buffs run away with this one. He shot 7-of-13 from the field, showed explosiveness driving to the rim, and dished out eight assists while having no turnovers.
“What I’d like to see from our team, is that sense of urgency that McKinley played with down the stretch, be there from the jump,” Boyle said.
Wright IV also noted that CU tends to get off to slow starts.
“We just have to come out with fire from the start. Looking back from last year…we always had slow starts and tried to turn it up in the second half. That’s something we can’t do. We have to come out from the start and have that fire and be ready to go,” he said.
The Buffs offense operated strangely on Saturday, as Boyle said he wanted to make his game plan as simple as possible.
“We didn’t run one play tonight, and that was by design…I didn’t want our guys thinking tonight, I wanted them playing tonight,” Boyle said.
Obviously, that won’t be the game plan once the regular season comes around, but regardless, the Buffs need to work on moving the ball. Wright IV was the only player on the team with more than one assist.
The Buffs may have cut it close in this one, but it’s just an exhibition game. They don’t play a conference game until Jan. 3, so they’ll have plenty of time to iron out the kinks against non-conference teams before then.
The regular season is next for the Buffs, and their next game is the home opener vs. Drake on Nov. 13.
Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Alex Pepper at email@example.com.