Colorado’s 20-point lead had been sliced nearly in half before freshman Daylen Kountz missed a fast-break dunk and then swished a 3-pointer that was negated because of a shot clock violation.
Undeterred by those lost opportunities, Kountz scored 10 points down the stretch to help the spark the Buffaloes to a 76-60 victory against Norfolk State on Monday night at CU Events Center in the second round of the NIT.
It was the latest in a string of good performances off the bench from the 6-foot-4 guard from Denver East High School.
“I was just being aggressive, playing my game and getting others involved and trying to make plays,” said Kountz, who finished with 10 points, two rebounds and an assist.
Monday marked the first time since Feb. 2 that Kountz hit double figures in scoring, but he has made a habit of providing a spark off the bench, on both ends of the floor.
Injuries and academic issues have hurt the Buffs’ depth this season, yet Kountz has played in every game and showed remarkable improvement as the season has progressed. He’s been especially valuable down the stretch, as the Buffs (23-12) have won 12 of their last 15 games.
“He’s growing up even over the last three or four weeks,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “He’s playing aggressively and the thing I like about Daylen is he’s really, really made a commitment on the defensive end and he’s gotten better.
“It used to be when he’d make a mistake, he didn’t know the mistake he made or he’d get his head down. Now he knows the mistake, he kind of self-corrects it, you can see it bothers him a little bit and that’s really a good sign. He’s going to be a terrific player, he really is, and I think we’re seeing signs of that right now.”
While the Buffs would prefer to be fully healthy and eligible, Boyle said, “The positives (to the adversity) are it forces guys into roles they may not have had without that and it forces them to grow up, and that’s good in the long term.”
It’s certainly been good for Kountz, who continues to make plays and help the Buffs win games.
“I think as the season has been going, I feel like I’ve been progressing pretty well and adjusting, playing pretty comfortable and more relaxed,” he said. “Just being more confident and understanding the game more, understanding how to make the plays. (More playing time) helped me out a lot and showed me a lot and I think I handled it pretty well.”
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.