It technically was the third game of his rekindled basketball career, but as the season continues to unfold Colorado's loss Tuesday at San Diego might be remembered as Evan Battey's "Welcome back" party.
Described by coach Tad Boyle as a silver lining of the Buffaloes' 70-64 defeat, Battey finally showcased the skills that made his return to the court this season so coveted, finishing with 18 points and four rebounds.
"It was good to get him rolling," Boyle said. "He's a beast down there and he's a tough matchup. When you think about our team...not everybody is going to great every night. But we've got a lot of weapons on this team offensively. We just have to trust each other and trust the offense a little bit more."
Battey was forced to redshirt last year after the NCAA declared him ineligible due to Battey repeating the ninth grade years earlier. Then, last December, he suffered a stroke while working out in his southern California hometown over the holidays.
Battey finally made his much-anticipated CU debut in the Buffs' first two games last week, and he admitted some nerves may have gotten the best of him during CU's home wins against Drake and Omaha. Battey went 3-for-9 in those two games, missing both his 3-point attempts and grabbing a total of seven rebounds. He recorded six of those rebounds against Omaha.
Battey came off the bench and knocked down his first field goal attempt Tuesday, a 3-pointer from the top of the key, signaling it would be a different story against the Toreros. Battey soon knocked down an identical 3-point shot and compiled his 18 points in an array of ways, from back-to-the-basket post moves to face-up drives to the basket.
"It felt good because I didn't play aggressive in my first two games," Battey said. "I was a little nervous with my first game in three years."
While Battey's three turnovers in 39 minutes through the first two games hardly was a glaring deficiency, he was even better in that department at San Diego, recording no turnovers in 30 minutes. He finished 7-for-13 from the floor and 2-for-3 on 3-pointers, though he went just 2-for-6 at the free throw line. Battey put together his breakout game in front of a large portion of family and friends that made the trip down from the Los Angeles area.
As the Buffs start turning the page to prepare for Saturday's battle at Air Force (4 p.m., AT&T Sports Net), Battey figures to play a more prominent role as CU charges deeper into the season. Following the road date against the Falcons, the Buffs will play their next four games at home.
"If there was a silver lining (Tuesday) it's that we got Evan Battey going," Boyle said. "The thing I love about this team is we've got a lot of weapons. On any given night, it might be someone else's night offensively. But collectively, defensively, we've got to be rock-solid."