There was a long-range void that needed to be filled when Tad Boyle first started eyeing junior college All-American Shane Gatling as a possible future Colorado Buffalo.
Yet from the moment he started to recruit Gatling, Boyle kept reiterating to the wiry 6-foot-2 guard that he could bring much more to the CU program than just a sharp outside shooting touch. One month after subduing UCLA with his long-range marksmanship, Gatling put some of those other skills on display Thursday night during the Buffs’ 93-68 victory against the Bruins at the CU Events Center.
“When we recruited Shane, I remember distinctly talking to him about you’re a very good 3-point shooter, and that’s one of the reasons we’re recruiting you because we’re losing Dom Collier, we’re losing George King,” Boyle said. “But as I watched him on film and I kind of evaluated his game, he’s got the ability to do more than just be a 3-point shooter. I think he showed that tonight.
“He is a good shooter. People know that. So they’re going to start running him off the line and making him put it on the floor.”
Last month, Gatling went 7-for-9 from the 3-point arc to spearhead the Buffs’ second consecutive win at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. In the rematch Thursday Gatling was just 2-for-6 from long range, but he was a perfect 5-for-5 on 2-pointers and also went 10-for-10 at the free throw line. Additionally, Gatling contributed three assists and three steals without committing a turnover. After scoring a season-best 28 points at UCLA last month, Gatling recorded 26 points on Thursday.
“I don’t know what it is,” Gatling said. “I think my teammates just kept finding me. I wasn’t shooting well from three tonight, but I tried to make plays for others. Attack the zone, shoot pull-ups and layups. My shot wasn’t falling, so I tried to do other things to impact the game.”
Thursday’s win was the 184th for Boyle at CU, putting the ninth-year head coach into a tie with Ricardo Patton for the second-most in program history. Sox Walseth is the all-time leader with 261 wins.
“Sox Walseth, his name is on the court and it’s there for a reason,” Boyle said. “It just means we’ve had some good players here. It’s somewhat gratifying, but I don’t worry about stuff like that a lot. We’re just trying to win the next game. But I love being the coach here at Colorado.”
For much of the first half of the season, the biggest shortcoming for the Buffs was their penchant for turnovers. CU gradually has turned that around, and the Buffs’ nine turnovers against UCLA gave them two of the season’s lowest turnover numbers in consecutive games. The Buffs also had nine turnovers in last week’s win against Utah, with the past two games trailing only the eight turnovers they committed in a win against Colorado State on Dec. 1.
With 18 assists against UCLA, the Buffs finished with a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio for just the second time this season. The first also was that same Colorado State win, when the Buffs posted 17 assists.
Thursday marked the first time this season the Buffs had four players record at least three assists — McKinley Wright (five), Evan Battey (four), Gatling (three), and Lucas Siewert (three)…The 25-point win by the Buffs was the biggest scoring margin against the Bruins for any team in any sport in CU history…Bey’s 13 field goals was the most by a CU player since Askia Booker also recorded 13 in a triple-overtime win at USC in 2015. Bey’s 13 double-doubles this season gives him a share of the Pac-12 lead alongside USC’s Nick Rakocevic.