Tyler Bey admits it. It might not have been a pressure free throw in the traditional sense, yet it was significant enough to get into Bey's head a little bit.
On Sunday, as the Colorado men's basketball team was putting the finishing touches on a 67-60 victory against Arizona that extended the Buffaloes' winning streak to five games, Bey stepped to the free throw line with 22 seconds remaining for a one-and-the-bonus opportunity.
The win already was in the bag for the Buffs, but with just one free throw Bey would secure his 10th double-double of the season and his fourth in five games. Naturally, with Bey and the Buffs as a whole riding a hot streak at the free throw line, he missed.
Asked if he psyched himself out, Bey was honest.
"I did, actually," Bey said. "It was kind of irritating."
Bey had to settle for nine points along with 10 rebounds, yet his performance continued a dominant stretch that has coincided with the Buffs' surge up the Pac-12 standings. The personal run for Bey, along with the Buffs' winning streak, can be traced back to a Jan. 31 two-point home loss against Oregon State. With Bey struggling through the game's first 28 or so minutes, CU head coach Tad Boyle opted to sit the 6-foot-7 forward for the bulk of the final 11 minutes.
Since then, the Buffs haven't lost, and Bey has sported the look of a player whose focus and intensity finally are catching up to his superior athletic skills.
For the season, Bey is averaging 12.3 points and 9.3 rebounds with a field goal percentage of .549. Since the benching against OSU those figures have increased dramatically, with Bey averaging 15.2 points and 10.8 rebounds during that span with a stellar .659 field goal percentage.
"I think with Tyler, the word focus and the word concentration come to mind, because when he's focused and he's concentrating, he's pretty darn good," Boyle said. "I'm not saying he's done it every minute he's been on the floor, but he's done it more often than not since that Oregon State game. You've seen him kind of go into a funk, but get himself out of that funk within the game. With Tyler previous, and Oregon State is a good example, he went into a funk and he couldn't get himself out of the funk.
"That focus, the concentration, that body language, all the stuff that rears its ugly head when things aren't going well, he's done a much better job the last couple weeks of pulling himself out of that."
While Bey's hot streak has put him on pace to become the first CU player to average nine rebounds in a season since Andre Roberson averaged 11.2 rebounds during the 2012-13 season, he and his teammates are far more concerned about continuing their team-wide hot streak when the Buffs visit Washington State Wednesday night (8 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network). CU's longest winning streak in league play in 13 years has pushed the Buffs back into the race for one of the top four spots in the Pac-12 and the accompanying bye in the first round of the league tournament.
"We know how physically talented he is," Boyle said. "I'm really proud of what he's done."