LAS VEGAS — A year ago it was a triumphant homecoming for Las Vegas native Tyler Bey, who recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds in front of his fans during his Pac-12 Conference tournament debut in 2017.
Wednesday's Vegas return also was triumphant for Bey in that his Colorado Buffaloes topped Cal 56-51 in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. But otherwise, it was a performance the recently-dominant Bey likely will prefer to forget.
In the end, Bey finished with a team-leading 11 rebounds, giving him a double-figure total in eight consecutive games and nine of the past 11. However, Bey also figured prominently in the Buffs' season-high turnover total of 23, getting charged with a team-most seven.
A year ago, Bey put on his solid hometown showing as a freshman as more of a role player behind point guard McKinley Wright and since-graduated guard George King. This year, Bey arrived in his native Las Vegas as the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, and earlier this week he also was named the league's Most Improved Player while earning a spot on the All-Pac-12 first team.
"I wouldn't say that (there was pressure)," Bey said. "I wasn't worried about the awards. I put those behind me and be Tyler Bey, that's all I wanted to do. I'm just proud we won today and we get to play tomorrow."
Bey faced a new defensive wrinkle from Cal as he was double-teamed in the post the first few times he touched the ball. His turnovers were an all-encompassing issue — from errant passes to offensive fouls to traveling violations. Yet afterward head coach Tad Boyle remained confident Bey will recover in time for Thursday's quarterfinal match against Oregon State, which also might come with some personal motivation for Bey.
It was during a home loss in the Buffs' only previous matchup this season against Oregon State on Jan. 31 that Boyle opted to sit Bey for the bulk of the game's final 11 minutes. Bey took the message to heart, posting double-doubles in eight of the next 10 games before finishing with eight points Wednesday against Cal.
It probably is somewhat telling that in an off game, Bey still finished just two points shy of another double-double.
"I've got to stay positive with him," Boyle said. "He puts a lot of pressure on himself. There's nobody that expects more of himself than Tyler does. I saw some of the old Tyler Bey come out a little bit tonight because he was so frustrated, and the body language started to reappear that we've tried to fight off.
"You have to take a game like this, where Tyler wasn't at his best, and he's got to put it behind him."
This past week, CU sophomore guard D'Shawn Schwartz put in some extra shooting work with assistant coach Kim English, taking passes along the wing and staring briefly at imaginary opponents before raising up for 3-pointers.
Schwartz pulled off the move almost perfectly on the last of his three 3-pointers against Cal, a shot that gave the Buffs a six-point lead with just over three minutes remaining.
Schwartz was a bright spot for a CU offense that shot the ball decently but suffered 23 turnovers. The sophomore from Colorado Springs went 4-for-6 overall and 3-for-5 on 3-pointers, recording 11 points and matching a career-high with eight rebounds.
"It's called the stare-and-raise," Schwartz said. "We've been working on that almost every day and it's coming natural."
Schwartz has shot 21-for-40 (.525) over the past five games.
It was the first career Pac-12 tournament game for Shane Gatling, Evan Battey, and Daylen Kountz. Among that trio, only Kountz played like he'd been there before.
The freshman from Denver East provided a huge spark in the first half, turning a pair of steals into breakaway dunks on consecutive possessions to cap a 13-2 run by the Buffs that put them in the lead for good. Kountz went 3-for-5 and finished with eight points.
"Once I saw the ball go in you start to settle down," Kountz said. "It felt good to have an effect on the game and bring some energy."
Gatling, a junior college transfer, was just 2-for-8, but he was the only player in CU's rotation who went without a turnover. Battey, a redshirt freshman, was back in Boulder during last year's Pac-12 tournament recovering from his midseason stroke. His four turnovers were a season-high, and he finished with four points, two rebounds, and two assists.
"Last year in the Pac-12 tournament I was back in Boulder, just chilling," Battey said. "It was good to actually be with the team and play a role."
In CU's home loss against Oregon State on Jan. 31, Wright paced the Buffs with 18 points on a 6-for-7 showing from the field. OSU's Stephen Thompson Jr. had 21 points and six rebounds...Cal's loss was the seventh in eight games for No. 12 seeds at the Pac-12 tournament. USC was the only No. 12 seed to win in the first round in 2015...Wright increased his career assist total to 320, tying Cory Higgins for 12th all-time at CU...The Golden Bears' 51 points matched a season-low, and it also matched a season-low for a CU opponent. Oregon also scored 51 in a Buffs home win on Feb. 2.