In Wednesday’s 56-51 first-round defeat of California, the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team gave up a season-high 23 turnovers. The No. 5-seeded Buffs led by as much as nine points in the first half and 10 in the second, but turnover after turnover kept 12-seeded Cal in the game until the final seconds.
Now, the Buffaloes must find a way to tighten the bolts before a 3:30 p.m. showdown with No. 4 Oregon State tomorrow afternoon in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
“We don’t have time to shoot around [or] watch films,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “These guys are smart. It’s that time of year where you have to adjust quickly, and this team and these guys have proven that they can do that.”
The game was uncharacteristic in more ways than one for Colorado.
In addition to the turnovers, the Buffs were without the dominating presence of sophomore guard/forward Tyler Bey, who struggled almost the entire game. His eight points was the lowest amount he’s contributed in over a month, when he put up just two on the road at Southern Cal on Feb. 9.
Bey recorded the most turnovers on the team with seven, five of which he committed within the first 10 minutes of the game, with his first coming on Colorado’s initial offensive possession.
“I think we talk about mental toughness a lot and what you have to do this time of year is you have to take a game like this where Tyler was not at his best, and he’s got to put it behind him,” Boyle said. “I’m going to be positive with him.”
For the Buffaloes, the phrase “next man up” has served as one of the team’s quasi campaign slogans in 2018-19. The loss of sophomore center/forward Dallas Walton for the season due to an ACL tear in October and junior guard Deleon Brown in January due to academic ineligibility has forced Boyle’s Buffs to practice what they preach in terms of “next man up,” given Boyle’s depleted roster.
Versus Cal on Wednesday, the “next man up” at times was freshman guard Daylen Kountz, whose back to back steals and slam dunks in the span of 15 seconds as the first half winded down gave Colorado some much-needed energy.
Kountz’s slick plays gave CU a 23-14 lead with just under five minutes before halftime.
Sophomore guard McKinley Wright IV showed up for the Buffaloes in their time of need, as well. He led all scorers with 18 points in the game, and early on, when the Buffs were down 9-3 and playing inefficiently, he sank three straight three-pointers, keeping Colorado afloat during a period of borderline chaos as turnovers mounted. Wright IV played a balanced game; he scored nine points in the first half and nine points in the second.
Sophomore guard D’Shawn Schwartz also had himself a night. He was second on the Buffaloes with 11 points, nine of which came in the second half and led the team.
Bey got six of his eight points via made free throws and shot just 1-of-6 from the floor. For he and the Buffs, all that can be done now is to move forward and prepare for tomorrow’s game against the Beavers. At the end of the day, Bey should rest easy knowing that his coach and teammates don’t doubt his abilities after a poor showing.
“I think Tyler’s one of the best players in the Pac-12,” said junior guard Shane Gatling. [Teams] realize that he’s a dominant player and when he touches the ball, two or three guys are coming after [him.] He played well through it even though he had however many turnovers.”
“There’s nobody that expects more of himself than Tyler does,” Boyle said. “I saw the old Tyler Bey come out tonight because he was so frustrated and the body language started to reappear that we’ve kind of tried to fight off…these guys don’t need to put any pressure on themselves. We’ve just got to go play and play free.”
For Colorado, all eyes are geared towards Oregon State, which bested the Buffs, 76-74, the last time the two teams met in, which was in Boulder on Jan. 31.
“We’re just going to take care of the ball and play Colorado basketball like how we’ve been playing at the end of the [regular] season,” Gatling said. “We know that [the Beavers] are a really good team…so we’re going to come out and fight for this W tomorrow.”
Colorado and Oregon State tip-off from the T-Mobile Arena on Thursday, March 14 at 3:30 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Managing Editor Justin Guerriero at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo