CHICAGO — Throughout the early stages of the season, Colorado basketball coach Tad Boyle has maintained that the strength of the CU’s team is the team, a nod to the Buffaloes’ superior depth.
That remains true. Yet during Saturday’s riveting 78-76 overtime win against No. 13 Dayton, the Buffs’ bench got a little shorter for the first time this season.
Four of the Buffs starters — D’Shawn Schwartz, McKinley Wright IV, Evan Battey, and Tyler Bey — all played at least 36 minutes, with Wright logging nearly 42 minutes. Starting guard Eli Parquet did not play in the second half, and for the first time this season 7-footer Dallas Walton didn’t get off the bench at all.
During the second half the four aforementioned starters anchored a tight rotation that also included Daylen Kountz, Shane Gatling, and, to a lesser extent, Lucas Siewert, who played only six minutes in the second half.
Gatling played a season-high 30 minutes.
“The second half, we just shortened it up,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “This is a team, as we go forward, we may shrink the bench a little bit. But at some point in the season, we’re going to need everybody. Whether it’s Daylen Kountz or Eli Parquet or Maddox Daniels. But we shrunk it a little bit.”
Sticking with it
Well before Schwartz drained the winner for CU at the overtime buzzer, his two quick fouls early in the first half had the potential to derail his entire night.
Yet Boyle proceeded to do something he rarely does. Typically, two first-half fouls always earn Buffs players a seat on the bench until after halftime. This time, though, Schwartz re-entered the game with about 10 minutes still to play in the first half. He responded by recording a pair of assists and hitting the first two of his five 3-pointers as CU whittled Dayton’s early 14-point lead down to four at halftime.
“Coach (Mike) Rohn, he does most of our substitutions. He always asks me, ‘This guy’s got two, do you want to go with him?’ I said yeah, let’s give it a shot,” Boyle said. “Part of it is that I really trusted D’Shawn. And I thought we had a really good officiating crew. Sometimes it’s not about trusting your players, you don’t necessarily trust the officials out there. D’Shawn is a smart player, and we had a good officiating crew. So I thought let’s see if we can steal some minutes, and we did and he responded.”
Wright said he was expecting the boos. It made silencing them that much sweeter.
CU’s point guard once was committed to Dayton before a coaching change led to his de-commitment and his eventual arrival in Boulder. The Flyers faithful showered Wright with boos every time he touched the ball early, but CU’s point guard enjoyed the last laugh.
Wright recorded the sixth double-double of his career, posting 29 points and a career-best-tying 10 rebounds. It was his first 20-point game of the season and the 12th of his career. He fell just one point shy of matching his career-high scoring total of 30 he set against South Dakota State two years ago.
“It was a really good feeling,” Wright said. “I told my teammates even before we came to Chicago that it was going to happen. I was getting DMs on Instagram about how much they hated me or whatever because I left. So I kind of knew it was coming. I texted my teammates this morning and told them that I needed this one personally, and they responded for me. That was a big-time game.
“I’ve got a lot of family from Chicago. My dad is from here. The Bulls are his favorite team, so he wanted me to put on a show. So I just had to go out and play my game.”
In Saturday’s win against Dayton and the win against the Flyers in March in the NIT, Schwartz was a combined 10-for-15 on 3-pointers…CU went 17-for-21 at the free throw line and has shot 43-for-49 at the line in the past two games…The Buffs improved to 3-1 all-time against Dayton…Through the season’s first 10 games, CU enjoyed just two games with more assists than turnovers. The Buffs have doubled that total in the past two games after posting 15 assists against 10 turnovers against Dayton…Gatling recorded a season-best four assists…Going into Thursday’s win against Prairie View A&M, Battey was shooting just 55 percent (22-for-40) at the free throw line. After going 5-for-6 against the Flyers, he has made 15 of 17 free throws in the past two games.