The Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball season continues.
The Buffs beat up on eight-seeded Norfolk State on Monday night at the CU Events Center, defeating the Spartans 76-60 in the second round of the NIT.
Colorado will now take on the Texas Longhorns in the third round of the National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday in Austin.
The Buffaloes shot a clean 50 percent from the floor in the win and never trailed Norfolk State. Sophomore guard/forward Tyler Bey led the team with 17 points, while freshman forward Evan Battey contributed a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
At halftime, the Buffs led 43-23. Although CU was outscored in the second half by four points and allowed the Spartans to lessen their deficit to nine points near the 13-minute mark. For all intents and purposes, Colorado will face Texas coming off a commanding victory.
“I can’t say enough about our crowd showing up on a Monday night and sending these guys off for the last home game the way they did, and I thought we owed them a little more than we gave them tonight,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “We got the win and we live to see another day. It’s about surviving and advancing this time of year and thank goodness we are.”
Bey scored the game’s opening four points and the Buffs were firing on all cylinders offensively early into things. A three-pointer courtesy of junior guard Shane Gatling about 12 minutes into the game gave Colorado its first lead in the double digits.
An 18-footer from Bey at the 6:59 mark put the Buffs up 30-17.
The final 11 minutes of the first half netted Norfolk State just six points, as the Buffs cruised to a 20-point lead heading into the second half.
Freshman guard Daylen Kountz had a stellar second half; he scored all of his 10 points in the final period of play. Game highlights for Kountz included hitting back-to-back three-pointers in the span of 58 seconds and a big dunk with 4:18 to play on a feed by sophomore guard McKinley Wright IV.
At that point, Colorado led 71-51. Wright IV finished with six points, six assists and five rebounds, expressing disappointment in his performance after the final buzzer.
“We have to play with emotion – starting with me,” Wright IV said. “I wasn’t fully there tonight. I think these guys, their actions follow a lot what I do. When I’m not there emotionally, a lot of them follow me. So I have to start out better Wednesday night in Austin with more emotion.”
Sophomore forward Alex Strating logged another good game for Colorado; he scored four points off the bench in the win. The Buffs also got freshman guard Eli Parquet back after a month’s absence, giving Boyle additional wiggle room in terms of roster depth.
Gatling was a bit off on Monday; he scored just four points and shot 1-of-6 from the floor.
“Shane wasn’t himself tonight — he twisted his ankle a couple of days ago in practice so he wasn’t full speed tonight,” Boyle said. “We need Shane to be the shooter he’s capable of being [and] we need him to be the defender that he was in Las Vegas. We’re going to need him dialed in defensively Wednesday night and making open shots when he gets them. That’s what shooters have to do, especially this time of year.”
Colorado has less than 48 hours before Wednesday’s matchup with the Longhorns, but as Boyle and players indicated during the Pac-12 Tournament, a quick turnaround isn’t a source of intimidation.
“I’ve watched [Texas] on film a little,” Boyle said. “They’re a talented team [and] they’ve got some talented guys that we’ve seen in the AAU circuit. It should be a heck of a matchup. We’ve got a team that’s playing well right now, these guys love each other, they’re connected. We’ve just got to go down and make it happen. It’s a great test on the road.”
A Colorado victory on Wednesday means advancing to the Final Four of the NIT and a trip to New York City, as the semifinals and championship game are played at Madison Square Garden.
The Buffs and Longhorns tip-off from the University of Texas on Wednesday, March 27 at 7 p.m. MST.
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