CU men's basketball preview: Washington State Cougars

TIPOFF: Thursday, 7 p.m., CU Events Center.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 94.1 FM/850 AM.

RECORDS: Washington State 7-7, 0-1 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 9-5, 0-2.

COACHES: Washington State — Ernie Kent, 5th season (54-82, 379-337 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (175-115, 231-181 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Washington State — F Robert Franks, Sr., 22.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg; F CJ Elleby, Fr., 16.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg; G Ahmed Ali, Jr., 8.3 ppg, 3.2 apg. Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 13.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 5.4 apg; F Lucas Siewert, Jr., 11.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg; F Tyler Bey, So., 10.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg.

NOTES: With the school still on break, CU is offering $10 general admission seats for the student section...CU is 7-0 all-time at home against the Cougars...CU's Namon Wright remains day-to-day due to a foot injury. The Buffs' only senior, Wright averaged 13.3 point through the season's first four games but has averaged just five points in his nine games since...WSU's Franks, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring, has missed the past two games due to a hip injury and began the week listed as day-to-day...The Buffs are averaging 14.2 turnovers per game. Only Stanford (15.4) averages more in the Pac-12. The Buffs have averaged 16 turnovers over the past five games...CU is 5-2 in Pac-12 home openers...WSU opened league play with an 85-67 loss at Washington.


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UW shot .566 overall and went 11-for-20 on 3-pointers...The Buffs' brief homestand continues Saturday against Washington (8 p.m., ESPNU) before CU once again hits the road for three consecutive games.

There is no single remedy or on-court adjustment that will cure all that has ailed the Colorado men's basketball team in recent weeks.

There is, however, one recent shortcoming that undoubtedly needs fixing. Any surge the Buffaloes hope to make toward the top of the Pac-12 Conference standings and a potential postseason berth will require Tyler Bey's presence on the floor.

Last week, an already-shorthanded CU squad was forced to play without its best rebounder and shot-blocker for extensive stretches of time as Bey was saddled with early foul trouble in losses at Arizona and Arizona State. In each case, CU's opponent immediately took advantage of the void Bey left in the middle of the Buffs' defense, and it's a recent trend Bey will attempt to reverse as the Buffs play at home for the first time in a month Thursday night against Washington State.

"He's got to be more disciplined," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "He has got to be a much more disciplined defender. For example, the verticality foul he had (at Arizona State) was great defense until the end. He had both hands up, no call, and then he tried to block the shot at the end. He can't reach. He's got to play defense with his feet and his brain. He has great feet and he knows what he's supposed to do. So he has to become a more disciplined defender.

"He has to understand when he picks up that first foul that's he's got to play really, really smart. Because his foul trouble definitely hampered us and tied our hands a little bit."

In each instance last week, Bey's foul issues handcuffed a Buffs team that lost guard Deleon Brown before the trip due to academic issues and lost senior guard Namon Wright for the ASU game due to a foot injury.

At Arizona, CU actually put together a decent start, with two blocked shots inside by Bey highlighting the quick 11-6 lead taken by the Buffs. However, shortly after the Wildcats took their first lead at 14-13, Bey was whistled for his second foul and went to the bench with 9 minutes, 23 seconds remaining in the first half. Arizona promptly began attacking the basket and reeled off 10 of the next 12 points to pull away.

"I have to be more disciplined, smarter," said Bey, who began the week ranked fourth in the Pac-12 with 9.0 rebounds per game. "I know I'm important on the defensive end. I can execute a lot of plays. I told coach I'm not going to be pouting and all that stuff. I'm just going to get to the next play."

Bey's foul troubles at Arizona State showed his periodic lapses in discipline are not relegated to the defensive end of the floor, with the sophomore forward getting charged with his second foul on an illegal screen at the 10:27 mark of the half. His exit from that game perhaps was less impactful — the Buffs already trailed ASU by nine points in a game the Sun Devils won going away — but the subsequent flurry of ASU dunks and layups likely doesn't occur quite so easily if Bey is protecting the rim.

"We've watched a lot of film and we talk about hopping into our screens," Boyle said. "He likes to slide into his screens. When you slide into your screens, the officials are looking at you. Again, it's discipline. We want Tyler to be a good screener. He is s good screener. He's just not a disciplined screener. It's just discipline. One of the things we talked about was 'Know your job, do your job.' That's how this team is going to turn the tide and get these losses turned into victories."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07