The first of the two multi-game road trips within the Pac-12 Conference were short but intense ones for the Colorado men's basketball team.
When the Buffaloes visited Arizona in early January, and the Bay Area two weeks ago, those business trips featured just one off-day between games. Typically, that doesn't leave much time for head coach Tad Boyle and his staff to indulge in much additional work beyond reviewing one game while preparing for another.
With an extra day off between Wednesday's impressive 84-73 at UCLA and Saturday night's battle at USC, CU's coaches plans to make good use of their time in an area that has been a recruiting haven for the Buffs.
"A lot of high schools in California are starting their tournaments already," Boyle said. "Some teams, their season's already over with. There's a lot of games on Friday night, so we'll be spread out as a staff Friday night for sure. Thursday night there's not a lot of games, but we'll be able to catch a practice here or a practice there. But definitely a big recruiting trip for us."
Among current Buffs, injured senior Namon Wright and redshirt freshman forward Evan Battey call the Los Angeles area home. Junior forward Lucas Siewert is from Brazil but played an entire high school career in Los Angeles. During Boyle's tenure the Buffs also have landed Los Angeles-area products such as Xavier Johnson, Askia Booker, and Spencer Dinwiddie. Currently the Buffs have an offer out to 2020 guard Lamont Butler from nearby Riverside Poly. Butler visited CU last weekend.
Maybe CU needs to research the various birthdays of the players' parents. Two Buffs who had been struggling with their shot of late, Shane Gatling and D'Shawn Schwartz, provided their respective parents with memorable gifts in Wednesday night's win.
Wednesday was the birthday of Gatling's mom, Cathy, who made the trip from Pennsylvania to watch the Buffs for the first time since the season opener. She watched her son light up Pauley Pavilion with seven 3-pointers and 28 points.
Schwartz's dad, Michael, attends road games more frequently, and he is likely to wake up in a good mood for his birthday on Thursday. D'Shawn Schwartz staked the Buffs to a quick lead with two 3-pointers shortly after the opening tip before finishing with 15 points and four rebounds.
Point guard McKinley Wright averted disaster with his ailing left shoulder, as he exited the game with 13 minutes remaining in the first half after feeling the joint pop out, only to pop back into place again. Wright experienced a similar sensation in Saturday's home win against Oregon when he briefly left the game early in the second half, but he said Wednesday's issue was bigger scare.
"It came out and went back in. I felt it pop out more than half way but it went back in place when I moved it," Wright said. "It's sore right now. Super sore. But I'll put some ice on it and I've got the next two days to relax. Saturday I'll be good to go. I've just got to be more cautious about reaching on rebounds and stuff like that."
Wright led CU's season-best 22 assists with a game-high eight, but several Buffs contributed to that total. Gatling's five assists was his second-best total of the season, and he now has averaged 3.3 assists over the past seven games after recording as many as two assists just three times through the season's first 15 games.
Lucas Siewert tallied a career-best four assists, while Tyler Bey and Evan Battey added two apiece.
After going 23-for-39 (.590) at the free throw line in losses against Stanford and Oregon State, CU bounced back to go 39-for-44 (.886) at the line in consecutive wins against Oregon and UCLA...Bey is 13-for-15 on free throws in the past two games, and his 4-for-4 effort Wednesday at UCLA improved his season percentage to .788 (62-for-80)...CU's 15 turnovers was its most since recording 17 in the Pac-12 opener at Arizona on Jan. 3...Before the game UCLA held a moment of silence for former basketball great Don Johnson, an All-American in the 1950s and a Bruins athletics Hall of Famer who passed away recently.