Colorado faced off against the South Dakota State Coyotes Tuesday night in Boulder looking to move past another non-conference opponent.
Fresh off a 86-80 win over intrastate rival Colorado State, which had bested the Buffaloes for the last two seasons, CU won comfortably, 82-58, versus the Coyotes.
The Buffs led 41-28 at halftime and didn’t really have to look back after that point. Less than four minutes into the second half, the Buffaloes had built a lead of over 20 points.
It was a pretty evenly spread out first half offensively for the Buffs, as multiple members of CU’s cast — main and supporting — contributed to the team’s success in the initial 20 minutes of play. Early on, the Buffs got a nice boost from their sophomores.
Guard D’Shawn Schwartz led the team with eight first half points, while guard McKinley Wright IV and guard/forward Tyler Bey each had five.
But if there was an individual performance that stuck out the most, it very well may have been that of freshman forward Evan Battey, who contributed six first half points in 12:58 on the court.
In the win over South Dakota, he continued to show marked improvement in the decision-making and presence in the paint departments, among other things.
By the end of the first half, he had set a career-high in assists with four. All four plays were indicative of Battey’s every-growing cognizance that while near the net, sometimes passing the ball is the better option.
“I do whatever the team needs me to do,” Battey said. “If a guy’s open, I’m hitting him. That’s just the way I play…I’ve always been a good passers and [my teammates] know that. They cut [and] they space out so I can hit them.”
Such awareness on the part of Battey, who stands at 6-foot-8 and often finds himself posted near the glass, waiting to be dished the ball, continues to bear fruit for head coach Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes.
“We knew Evan was a great passer when we recruited him,” Boyle said. “He can find the open man pretty well, and he enjoys that. Hopefully our players are figuring that out.”
Battey’s first nice play came just nine seconds after he originally entered the game. With 15:45 left in the first half, Battey passed the ball out to senior guard Namon Wright, who drained a three-pointer, putting CU up 8-1.
Later in the half, with CU up 23-16, Battey stole the ball from South Dakota’s Stanley Umude. Shortly thereafter, he again found himself with the ball near the net, but instead of shooting chose to dish the ball to Schwartz, who capitalized on the quick pass with a one-handed dunk.
As the first half winded down, Wright grabbed a defensive rebound with 5:43 left before halftime. Battey helped move the ball up into the offensive zone and found junior forward Lucas Siewert, who finished a fast break layup, giving Colorado a 29-20 lead.
Battey’s final act of selflessness came with under four minutes remaining in the first half. This time, he found junior guard Shane Gatling waiting behind the arc, hit him with a pass and watched as Gatling drained the ball, as the Buffs took a 12-point lead.
The second half saw Battey do more of the scoring — he had eight points in final 20 minutes and finished the night with 14, which was tied with Schwartz for highest on the team.
With Colorado cruising, up 57-34, Battey got the ball with his back to the net. He paused a few seconds, considered his options and ultimately took a fadeaway jump shot that made its way into the basket.
“What I want to see is continual improvement with [Evan] game to game and practice to practice,” Boyle said. “Every time he steps on the floor, he seems to be more confident and more comfortable out there. He’s a weapon, offensively…he’s got great feet, defensively. Evan Battey keeps getting better.”
The Buffaloes will look for further consistent play from Battey down the stretch. Up next for CU is a home game versus the University of Illinois, Chicago on Saturday, Dec. 8 in Boulder. Tipoff is at 4 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo