Tyler Bey and Colorado basketball teammate McKinley Wright have enjoyed an ongoing personal competition over which Buffaloes player ultimately receives the most recognition in the year-end voting for the Pac-12 Conference’s All -Defensive team.
In each of their first two seasons at CU, it was Wright who won those bragging rights, with the guard twice earning All-Defensive honorable mention honors.
Yet as Bey’s evolution continues to unfold before the eyes of Buffs fans, the junior forward is showing signs of taking his game to a whole new level at the defensive end of the floor.
No. 23 CU put together a dominant defensive performance during Monday’s win against UC Irvine, and Bey has been the catalyst of the Buffs’ solid defensive start to the season. Bey recorded a career-best six steals as the Buffs moved to 3-0 going into Sunday’s date against Wyoming in Las Vegas (6 p.m. MT, ESPN3).
“You play post defense with your feet and your brain. When Tyler moves his feet and he plays with awareness and energy on defense, holy cow,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “He is disruptive because he’s so athletic and so quick. I thought his energy level (against UC Irvine) and his awareness level — he had a steal in the second half out of a ball-screen x-out that was a big-time play. Irvine made the right read, but Tyler made the play because of his length and athleticism. We need that from him every night. Again, the challenge I’ve laid to Tyler is not only playing in a stance, but also playing that way consistently. When we play Wyoming in Las Vegas on Sunday, he’ll have an opportunity to show that progress.”
Bey posted 30 steals in 36 games last year while recording six games with multiple steals. Bey has nabbed at least two steals in all three games this season, spurring a team-wide defensive effort in which the Buffs have forced an average of 19 turnovers per game so far. No CU opponent has shot better than the .396 posted by UC Irvine on Monday.
Those early traits could bode well for the Buffs against Wyoming, which takes an overall shooting percentage of .388 and a 3-point mark of .222 into its Thursday night home date against Louisiana-Lafayette.
“Its’ a sign of progress,” Boyle said. “It’s a sign of progress when you see your team, when you challenge them Saturday night and Sunday as we prepped for Irvine, and at shootaround (Monday), and then they come out and they play with the awareness, the intensity, they were dialed-in defensively and we held one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country to (39) percent. And we held them to 53 points. To me, that makes your heart feel pretty warm as a coach.
“But it’s one game. You can learn from that. You can learn from things that happen positively. McKinley can learn from a 16 (points) and five (assists) and zero turnover game. Tyler can learn from being dialed-in on defense and playing with energy and awareness. Why not every night? Not that you’re going to play well every night. We shot less than 40 percent. When we start making shots and start making free throws, this team could be explosive on both sides of the ball. But the defensive part to me, is a great sign of where we are for this time of the year.”