Evan Battey's back felt sturdy enough for the redshirt freshman forward to give it a shot Sunday night against Arizona.
Once again the 6-foot-8 Battey provided a few timely plays on offense. Yet it was his interior defense that counted as his biggest contribution in the Buffaloes' fifth straight win Sunday night, a 67-60 victory against Arizona at the CU Events Center.
Battey exited the Buffs' previous game, a home win against Arizona State, due to a back issue just before halftime and did not return. It was a whirlwind three days in between for Battey, who had to fly to the east coast to attend the funeral of his maternal grandmother while undergoing stretching and rehabilitation routines in hopes of getting back on the court.
Battey indeed was on the court Sunday, going 3-for-6 before finishing with six points and two rebounds in 24 minutes. Afterwards, though, it was Battey's defense that was heralded by head coach Tad Boyle. Battey helped limit Arizona's 6-foot-10 Chase Jeter to 10 points and eight rebounds after the junior forward entered the game averaging 12.8 points.
"Evan takes on a challenge defensively, and he wanted to guard Jeter," Boyle said. "I thought we did a really good job on him in the second half. You give him space down there, he's a load. And they're playing through him. I think he wore down maybe a little bit in the second half. We did a much better job of fronting him and making him play in a crowd. Because if you let Jeter go one-on-one in the post, he's going to score.
"I thought Evan played terrific defense. He loves that challenge. It was good to have him back. We were hopeful, and he played well tonight."
The CU program hosted its annual alumni weekend, and at halftime a group of players from the Ricardo Patton coaching era, including Chauncey Billups, was honored at halftime.
Patton led the Buffs to a pair of NCAA Tournament berths and 184 wins overall in his nearly 12 full seasons at the helm (Patton took over 15 games into the 1995-96 season). It is the second-highest win total in CU history, but soon Boyle, in his ninth season, will pass Patton on that list. Sunday's win against the Wildcats was Boyle's 182nd at CU, but Patton said he couldn't be happier to see Boyle ascending that list.
Sox Walseth is the all-time wins leader with 261.
"I'm OK with that," Patton said. "It's great to see what he's been able to do with the program. I think he's done a phenomenal job and that it's just going to get better. Those sorts of records are meant to be broken."
Before the game CU held a moment of silence for Lynn Baker, a standout player from the 1960s who passed away Sunday...Arizona again played without standout freshman Brandon Williams, who missed his fifth consecutive game due to an injury...If not for a late missed free throw, sophomore forward Tyler Bey (nine points, 10 rebounds) would have posted his fourth double-double in five games...CU point guard McKinley Wright tallied just two assists, but that was enough move into a tie with Michel Morandais for 13th place on CU's career list with 294. Next up is Cory Higgins with 320...Freshman Eli Parquet returned to the rotation, playing nearly six minutes, after being unavailable for CU's previous game against Arizona State due to an illness.