The record probably is where it needs to be at this stage of the season, and now the Colorado men’s basketball team has a legitimate NCAA Tournament credential-building win to its credit.
Nevertheless, it often has been a ragged and inconsistent form of basketball on display for the Buffaloes throughout much of the nonconference schedule. Yet against then-No. 13 Dayton last week in Chicago, the Buffs pulled off a critical overtime victory.
The telling shot that erased a month’s worth of frustrations arrived on D’Shawn Schwartz’s game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Yet it was following through on a pair of the primary coaching points in recent weeks — one team-wide, another individually — that put the Buffs in position to win.
First, the Buffs managed to curtail their turnovers for one of the few times this season. And more importantly, at crunch time, Tyler Bey was able to slow the game down in the face of a double-team, calmly delivering a pass out of a chaotic scene in the paint to a wide-open Schwartz on the opposite wing while the clock ticked away.
“What’s gratifying is to see things you’ve worked on in practice come to fruition in a game,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “That was as great example of handling a double team. (Bey) turned baseline rather than middle, but he made the play that needed to be made. And he did by slowing down and not getting sped up. We’ve been practicing that. Repping it. And to see the practice reps turn into game execution, to me that’s what makes coaching coaching and makes you feel really good about what your assistant coaches have done and what your players have taken from the things they need to improve on.”
The Buffs returned to Boulder on Thursday afternoon and endured a light workout that evening, their first since last week’s big win in Chicago. A full workout ensued Friday morning ahead of the final nonconference date Sunday at home against Iona (noon, Pac-12 Network).
During the three-day holiday hiatus the program remained abuzz from the thrilling win against Dayton. CU’s 10 turnovers was its second-lowest total of the season and ended a run of six straight games in which the Buffs committed at least 15 turnovers. With the Buffs still not shooting as well as expected — CU’s .411 overall field goal percentage is down from last year’s .454 mark — curbing the turnovers will keep a Buffs team strong on defense and on the glass in most games.
“We needed that. Ten turnovers, that’s what we can be night in and night out,” CU point guard McKinley Wright IV said. “It starts with myself. We should’ve had seven, six. I had five myself. I’ve got to be better, but I think the team did a really good job of taking care of the ball. We won the game, so that’s all that really matters. But having 10 turnovers, that was a big part of our win.”
Bey’s final assist also was critical, particularly since the junior forward has struggled at times adapting to near-constant double-teams in the post. He entered the Dayton game with nine turnovers in the previous two games but had just one against in 36 minutes against the Flyers. Dayton wasn’t consistently double-teaming Bey, yet his recent turnover problem has been balanced by the fact his pass to Schwartz was his 24th assist of the 12-game season, one more than he collected all of last season.
“Tyler’s big step this year has come in passing the basketball,” Boyle said. “He’s being forced to that. That’s what double-teams do, they force you to pass the ball. You have to be a willing passer, which Tyler has become. He still is thinking score. And he should be when he catches the ball on the block. But he also has to realize when a double comes, slow down, handle it, find the open man. He did a great job of that.”