The No. 23 University of Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team defeated UC Irvine 69-53 Monday night. CU’s start to the season remains undefeated.
UC Irvine’s Anteaters kept it competitive through the first half, leading by four in the 11th minute of the first period. But 10 unanswered points from the Buffs gave CU some separation on the scoreboard and contributed to the 40-30 score at halftime. CU held onto the lead throughout the second period, eventually winning 69-53.
“That was a good win against a quality, quality basketball team,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. “Our guys answered the bell, answered the challenge that I laid at their feet starting on Saturday night after San Diego.”
Though CU’s offense wasn’t always on track with 39% shooting in the paint, the team shot well from distance. Six Buffs made threes and the team shot 47.4% from deep, an area of focus this summer.
“You know it’s really good for us, we work on that stuff every day. Last year we were at the bottom of the league in three-point field goal (percentage), and teams will try to zone us when they see that,” junior guard McKinley Wright IV said.
“We didn’t shoot the ball extremely well but we shot the ball from three pretty darn well, better than from two,” Boyle said.
Wright and junior forward Tyler Bey tied to lead the team in scoring with 16 points each. The duo was lethal together, combining for an alley-oop dunk by Bey that lit up the crowd at the CU Events Center. It was their defensive performance, however, that shined. CU earned 21 points from 22 forced turnovers.
“Ball pressure was key. We really wanted to get pressure on their ball handlers,” Boyle said.
Bey’s six steals and seven rebounds were dominant on the defensive end.
“I can’t really explain it, but I feel like when the passes come, I can be there,” Bey said. “Tonight, which is one of those nights where I was in the stance almost every play, and I was able to get my hands up in the passing lane and stuff like that.”
Boyle offered praise to Bey, commending his energy on defense.
“He is disruptive because he is so athletic and so quick,” Boyle said.
On the offensive side, the Buffs did well to take care of the ball. CU only gave up seven turnovers for nine points. Boyle cited turnovers as an area the team would need to improve to reach their own expectations after surrendering 15 turnovers to San Diego last Saturday.
“That’s really good, seven turnovers; I don’t know when the last time was we were that low,” Wright said. “We just have to keep sharing the ball, taking care of the ball and making the right reads. We take care of the ball and we get rebounds.”
“It makes you feel really good as a coach when your players take that challenge,” Boyle said.
Both teams found excellent production off the bench. UC Irvine’s redshirt sophomore forward Collin Welp came off the bench to lead the Anteaters in scoring with 12 points on 62% shooting. Seventeen of the Buffs’ points came from their bench, with senior guard Shane Gatling and junior forward Maddox Daniels leading the bench with five points each.
“Being at home kind of gets the pace of the game going and we are (a) deep team. We have guys that can expend some energy,” Boyle said. “UC Irvine is a deep team so they can kind of weather that a little bit with their depth.”
Now, the Buffs head to Las Vegas for the MGM Resorts Main Event tournament. Bey, who is from Las Vegas, is excited to return.
“I get to play in front of the fam in my home city, so it’s going to be fun.”
CU will take on Wyoming at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas Nov. 24 at 6 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer George Hakala at email@example.com.
Contact CU Independent Visuals Editor Nigel Amstock at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact CU Independent Photojournalist Kara Wagenknecht at email@example.com