Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
What went right: The Buffs went 19-for-23 at the free throw line and out-rebounded the Mavericks 36-27.
What went wrong: CU couldn’t slow Omaha’s hot shooting in the second half. The Mavericks shot .531 overall after halftime, including a 6-for-10 mark on 3-pointers.
Star of the game: Lucas Siewert. The 6-foot-10 junior is picking up where he left off last season, scoring 16 points with five rebounds while going 4-for-6 on 3-pointers.
What’s next: The Buffs will face the University of San Diego Tuesday night in their first road game (8 p.m. MT, ESPNU).
Tyler Bey boasts freaky athletic skills and will be a threat to produce a double-double every time the Colorado men’s basketball team hits the floor this season.
Bey can play a little defense, too.
The sophomore played a critical role in saving the Buffaloes from disaster Friday night, recording a key defensive play in the final minute to help the Buffs hold off visiting Omaha 79-75 at the CU Events Center.
With Omaha trailing by just two points, Bey recorded a steal that he turned into a fast break layup and a 3-point play, giving the Buffs a five-point edge with 29.9 seconds remaining.
“Tonight was a hard-fought victory obviously. A night when we played against a team that made some unbelievably tough shots in the second half,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “One of the things we talked about in the locker room after the game is you have to respect everybody and fear nobody. I’m not saying we didn’t respect Omaha coming in here, but you have to be ready to take somebody’s best shot. And I think we took their best shot tonight and we found a way to win.”
The Buffs overcame a hot-shooting second half by the Mavericks in addition to an off night from point guard McKinley Wright, who went 3-for-7 and finished with five turnovers. Omaha shot .531 overall after halftime, including a 6-for-10 mark on 3-pointers.
The Mavericks still had a chance to upset the Buffs after Bey’s key 3-point play, getting an off-balance 3-pointer from Zach Jackson to remain within 77-75 with 17.6 seconds left. Omaha immediately got the ball back on Wright’s final turnover, but the Mavericks turned it right back over and Wright provided the final margin by knocking down two free throws with 7.4 seconds remaining.
“We want to obviously win games, and they came in and brought it to us,” Wright said. “They gave us their best effort. We weren’t great from the start and we just found a way to dig it out. A win is a win, so we’ll take it.”
Five Buffs scored in double figures, but that apparent balance on offense was countered by the fact those five players accounted for 71 of the Buffs’ 79 points.
Junior forward Lucas Siewert started for just the fifth time in his career but responded with another strong game, finishing with a team-high 16 points while going 4-for-6 on 3-pointers. Sophomore D’Shawn Schwartz, who missed the season-opening win against Drake due to a one-game suspension for a violation of NCAA rules, put together a stellar 2018-19 debut, recording career highs of 15 points and seven rebounds.
Bey posted 16 points and seven rebounds.
Despite Omaha’s dialed-in shooting touch and the Buffs’ 16 turnovers, CU did a commendable job of attacking the basket. The Buffs can credit a 19-for-23 performance at the free throw line for staving the Mavericks’ upset bid.
“We knew two things had to be good. We had to have great ball-screen defense, and we had to guard their isolation plays,” Boyle said. “I thought our ball-screen defense got extended a little bit. Our bigs have to be better at showing their chest early, and guards have to get their screens. It gave them some open looks.
“You let a team hang around, you let a team make a couple threes, now their juices starts flowing. Their confidence gets going. And now they can make tough threes with a hand in their face, which is what happened.”
Colorado 79, Omaha 75
Hahn 4-13 1-1 9, Pile 2-2 1-1 5, Jackson 7-14 2-3 17, Robinson 4-8 3-4 13, Gibson 7-11 0-0 18, Tut 3-5 0-0 6, Barney 1-3 0-0 3, Akinwole 1-5 1-3 4. Totals 29-61 8-12 75.
Siewert 6-10 0-0 16, M.Wright 3-7 7-8 13, Gatling 0-2 4-4 4, Schwartz 6-10 1-1 15, Bey 7-13 2-3 16, Strating 0-0 1-2 1, Battey 0-3 0-1 0, N.Wright 3-6 4-4 11, Brown 1-4 0-0 3, Parquet 0-0 0-0 0, Kountz 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-55 19-23 79.
Halftime — Colorado 33-29. 3-point goals — Nebraska-Omaha 9-22 (Gibson 4-7, Robinson 2-4, Jackson 1-2, Akinwole 1-2, Barney 1-3, Hahn 0-4), Colorado 8-21 (Siewert 4-6, Schwartz 2-4, Brown 1-2, N.Wright 1-4, M.Wright 0-1, Bey 0-1, Battey 0-1, Gatling 0-2). Fouled out — Tut. Rebounds — Nebraska-Omaha 25 (Gibson 6), Colorado 33 (Schwartz, Bey 7). Assists — Nebraska-Omaha 7 (Gibson 3), Colorado 13 (M.Wright 5). Total fouls — Nebraska-Omaha 22, Colorado 13. A — 5,720.