LAS VEGAS — Last week, Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle joked about dusting off the game film from the Buffaloes’ 2014 loss at Wyoming, saying that night of futility in Laramie might provide a good example of what not to do when the programs renewed their rivalry in Las Vegas.
After CU subdued Wyoming on Sunday despite a downright ugly offensive showing during the first half, Boyle might be tempted to continually review that particular game film throughout this season to show his club what they’re supposed to do.
Certainly Boyle doesn’t want his squad to ever repeat the 6-for-26 first half shooting performance that had the Cowboys eyeing an upset in what eventually turned into a 56-41 CU win. However, for a coach that has preached defense throughout his 10-year tenure at CU, it provided a perfect example of how the Buffs can take over games even on days when their shots aren’t falling.
The Buffs, who climbed two spots to No. 21 in this week’s AP top 25, have been superb on defense so far this season, and they will look to continue putting the clamps down when they take on Clemson in Las Vegas Tuesday night in the finale of the MGM Resorts Main Event.
It will be the first meeting between the programs.
“It’s something we always preach that defense travels. Rebounding travels,” CU junior D’Shawn Schwartz said. “If you’re not making shots we can just play D, get rebounds, and win the game.”
While the Buffs have endured some ups and downs offensively through four games — CU is shooting .412 overall and just .602 at the free throw line — their defense has been dominant. CU has held all four of its opponents to no better than 39 percent from the field, with Wyoming managing to shoot just .319 (15-for-47) Sunday night. The Buffs’ harassing, in-your-face defense has proven frustrating to the opposition, as CU has forced at least 19 turnovers in every game.
“We weren’t making shots so we had to rely on defense,” CU forward Tyler Bey said. “That was the main thing. Defense and rebounding, that’s what we hang our hat on, and that’s how we got the (win).”
Still, the Buffs likely will have to play more efficiently on offense in order to topple Clemson. CU shot .462 in the season-opening win against Arizona State in China but has suffered a steady decline since, shooting .411 against San Diego and .393 against UC Irvine. After the rough start against Wyoming, the Buffs had to shoot 50 percent in the second half (15-for-30) just to finish with a .375 mark.
“We have to execute offensively better. I mentioned after the Irvine game, and it’s two games in a row now we’ve been under 40 percent,” Boyle said. “We’ve got to be more efficient on offense. We’re going to have a different animal to defend (than Wyoming). They’re going to be bigger, more athletic, maybe more skilled but Wyoming had some good shooters. We’ll have to be ready to go.”
Clemson vs. No. 21 CU Buffs men’s basketball
TIPOFF: Tuesday, 9:30 p.m. MT, T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.
BROADCAST: TV — ESPN2; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.
RECORDS: Clemson 5-1; Colorado 4-0.
COACHES: Clemson — Brad Brownell, 10th season (174-128, 341-213 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 10th season (193-123, 249-189 overall)
KEY PLAYERS: Clemson — G/F Tevin Mack, Sr., 16.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg; G John Newman III, So., 10.8 ppg; G Al-Amir Dawes, Fr., 10.8 ppg, 3.0 apg. Colorado — F Tyler Bey, Jr., 14.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 3.3 spg; G McKinley Wright IV, Jr., 12.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.8 apg; G/F D’Shawn Schwartz, Jr., 12.5 ppg, .533 3-point percentage.
WHAT TO WATCH: The Buffs shot .462 in a season-opening win against Arizona State but haven’t hit 40 percent in the past three games. CU will be challenged to reverse that against a Clemson defense holding its opponents to a .373 mark.
NOTES: Clemson finished regulation with a 15-0 run against TCU on Sunday before posting a 62-60 victory in overtime. The Tigers hit 10 3-pointers, including five from Mack, while putting together their biggest comeback since 2011…Bey moved into 25th-place on CU’s all-time rebounding list with his career-high 19 boards against Wyoming. Now with 568 career rebounds, Bey needs nine more to surpass CU radio analyst Scott Wilke for 24th place. The 19 rebounds against Wyoming was the most by a CU player since Andre Roberson grabbed 20 against Stanford on Jan. 24, 2013…Wright went without an assist for the first time in his career against Wyoming…CU’s Evan Battey grabbed 13 rebounds against Wyoming, just one shy of matching his career-high…Boyle is seeking his 250th win as a Division I head coach…The Buffs return home to host Sacramento State on Saturday (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).