The postgame chatter in the coaches’ corner of Colorado’s locker room was, predictably, a spirited one.
The CU men’s basketball team had just put the finishing touches on Arizona State for a season-opening win in the Pac-12’s Conference’s annual China Game in Shanghai. A long journey home awaited, but at least the Buffaloes would return 1-0.
At one point, the talk turned to Tyler Bey. CU’s junior forward didn’t enjoy a great first half, scoring just four points and sitting the final 9 minutes, 6 seconds after picking up his second foul. Bey finished 0-for-4 on 3-pointers and committed a team-high four turnovers.
It would have been understandable if Buff fans were bracing for the worst when glimpses of Bey’s frustrated demeanor, something he overcame during a stellar finish last season, briefly rose to the surface. In the end, though, it was a performance those same fans have come to expect from Bey, who finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for the 20th double-double of his career.
Just a year ago, a subpar game would mean something akin to the six-point, eight-rebound performance Bey posted in an early loss last year at San Diego. Now an off-night still ends in a double-double with several key defensive plays down the stretch.
“We talked about that as a staff after the game. Tyler was not at his best,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “His body language I think reverted back to the old Tyler Bey. He got frustrated. He’s got to be mentally tougher than that. But yeah, to not play well and have 15 and 12, it’s a sign of progress.”
The most curious aspect of Bey’s opening performance was the 0-for-4 mark on 3-pointers. Bey didn’t attempt a 3-pointer in the final 16 games last season, putting up his final attempt on a 5-for-22 season from the arc during a home loss against Oregon State that proved to be the flashpoint of the Buffs’ 12-4 finish.
Bey has proven to be a dependable mid-range shooter, and both he and Boyle have discussed Bey expanding his range this season. Yet while the Buffs are intent on improving on last year’s .323 mark on 3-pointers, no one was necessarily looking to Bey to lead that charge. His four 3-point attempts against ASU equaled the combined attempts by Lucas Siewert, McKinley Wright, Daylen Kountz, and Shane Gatling.
“I want him to shoot the trail threes. I want him to be able to shoot the ball in a penetrate-and-kick situation. The three I want him to get out of his game is the pick-and-pop three right now,” Boyle said. “He’s such a good roller to the rim, puts such pressure on the rim and such a good finisher. Tyler only took one bad shot. And none of the threes were bad shots. They were all wide open. His feet were set. He’s proven in practice he can make that shot. I’m fine with it. I just don’t want him hunting those threes. Those threes will come. And I don’t really think he hunted them. Only one of those threes was a pick-and-pop that I want to get out of the equation.”
Bey and the Buffs reconvened for their first post-China practice on Tuesday morning, a light workout that served mostly as a work-up-a-sweat session before CU begins more earnest preparations for Saturday’s home opener against San Diego (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
“They were good shots. I was just missing them,” Bey said. “I’ve just got to get in the gym and keep working on those shots. I just need to learn how to my control my emotions, especially when I’m not playing good. It starts with my team. I don’t have to score. That was the main thing. I wanted to score, and I should do that. But I just have to play my game.”