CU basketball making certain exhibition shooting woes don’t continue in regular season

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado’s Namon Wright struggled from the field (0-for-5) on Saturday against Colorado Mines.

Some of the offensive numbers put up by the Colorado men’s basketball team during last week’s exhibition win against Colorado Mines were, well, offensive.

Chances are, the Buffaloes won’t be a team that shoots 4-for-16 from 3-point range, or .636 at the free throw line, as CU did against the Orediggers. It was, after all, an exhibition game, and the first live action in front of fans for a squad that used five players that had never officially suited up for the Buffs before.

Still, the graduation of second-leading scorer and top 3-point shooter George King nonetheless has left a void in the CU attack. When the Buffs open the season at home Tuesday night against Drake (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network), it will mark the first test for an offense likely to be a work in progress throughout the season’s early weeks.

“We just need to move without the ball, and find other ways to score outside of pick-and-rolls and transition,” sophomore point guard McKinley Wright said. “I think having Evan (Battey), Lucas (Siewert) and Tyler (Bey) down there in the low post, they’ve all gotten better and they’re all a lot stronger. They’re all able to score the ball in many different ways. Having those guys will open the floor for all of us.

“The scoring won’t be a problem. It’s the defensive end where we need to turn it up a notch.”

There were a number of ragged shooting efforts against Mines, most notably the combined 3-for-21 mark turned in by three expected regulars of CU’s rotation — Battey (2-for-10), Shane Gatling (1-for-6) and Namon Wright (0-for-5). Throw in a combined 0-for-5 by the two freshmen guards, Daylen Kountz and Eli Parquet, and it’s easy to see how the Buffs finished with an overall field goal percentage of .393.

Certainly it wasn’t all doom-and-gloom offensively for the Buffs. Bey went 6-for-9 and knocked down his only 3-point attempt. McKinley Wright was a solid 7-for-13 and Siewert came off the bench to go 5-for-9. Still, in Pac-12 games last year the Buffs ranked 11th in the league in scoring (67.8), 11th in field goal percentage (.426) and eighth in free throw percentage (.719). With King no longer a part of that equation, the Buffs’ hopes of improving those numbers in 2018-19 will lean heavily on the expected improvement of second-year players like Bey, McKinley Wright and D’Shawn Schwartz.

“Everyone has taken their game to a new level,” said McKinley Wright, who led the Buffs with 14.2 points per game last year. “The confidence is boosted and sky-high through the roof right now, which is something we need. I’m confident in all my guys that they’re going to be able to make plays. They don’t need to rely on me. I’m excited to move forward this season and have guys that can step up as sophomores.”

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