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CU basketball notes: Evan Battey’s glass work helps spark Buffs against Utah

Buffs use team defensive effort to shackle Utes

Colorado’s Evan Battey grabs one of his seven offensive offensive rebounds against Utah. Battey posted his third career double-double. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Evan Battey says his plan is to attack the boards against every opponent.

His ability to clean the glass, even in the early going when the Colorado Buffaloes were missing very few shots, played a key role in the 25th-ranked Buffs dominant 91-52 win against Utah Sunday afternoon at the CU Events Center.

Battey posted his second double-double in four games and the third of his career, finishing with a team-high 17 points along with 10 rebounds. Seven of those rebounds came at the offensive end of the floor, helping CU to post a 14-5 edge in second-chance points.

“That’s a thing I try to exploit on any team, it doesn’t matter the team,” Battey said. “I give my teammates shots. That’s just my game plan every game.”

Battey recorded three putback baskets in the first half and added another early in the second half. CU hit six of its first eight shots of the game and at one point was 7-for-10, with two of those three misses turning into rebound buckets by Battey. It was a rebound effort, so to speak, from Battey after he had grabbed just five boards total in CU’s first two Pac-12 Conference games last week.

“Evan Battey was a beast tonight. I don’t know what other adjective I can use for him on the backboards,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “He went after every offensive rebound. He gets those things. I said earlier this week, when he gets the ball in his hands, it’s like a vise grip. Nobody is taking it away, and he’s so big and strong guys are bouncing off him. He set the tone with our offensive rebounding in the first half.

“You outrebound a team by 20, good things are going to happen. Offensive glass is something we’ve been really preaching and talking to our guys about. It was great to see Evan come out and get that done.”

Defensive clamps

The Buffs held the Pac-12’s leading scorer, Utah sophomore forward Timmy Allen, to a season-low seven points on a 2-for-11 showing from the floor. He entered the game averaging 21.1 points per game, but the Buffs’ dogged defensive effort didn’t end there.

Freshman guard Rylan Jones was averaging 10.9 points with a .475 mark on 3-pointers. He scored six points and only put up one 3-point attempt. Sophomore guard Both Gach was averaging 12.9 points with a .428 overall field goal percentage. He scored seven points on a 3-for-9 game from the field.

“It was a team effort,” CU guard McKinley Wright IV said. “Our coaches the entire week, we just kept hearing his name. We kept hearing Timmy Allen, Both Gach. We took that as an individual challenge and as a collective challenge to shut their water off. We just kept hearing their names all week. It was kind of getting annoying.”

Dishing

Even with the poor finish against Oregon State, in which he committed three turnovers during the Beavers’ game-ending 24-5 run, Wright nonetheless has been on a tear in the assist-to-turnover department. That trend continued against Utah, as Wright posted eight assists without a turnover.

In two and a half seasons as CU’s starting point guard, it was just Wright’s second full game without a turnover and his first since the 12th game of his collegiate career against Iowa on Dec. 22, 2017. Wright also had zero turnovers at home against Washington last year, but he exited that game in the first half due to a shoulder injury and did not return.

In the past four games, Wright has posted 36 assists against just seven turnovers.

“I’ve been slowing down,” Wright said. “Outside of that (OSU) game I’ve been slowing down and making the easy play. Just hitting the first free man and not trying to squeeze passes into small holes. Often that doesn’t work and it’s a turnover and it’s frustrating. Just been slowing down.”

Wright moved into a fourth-place tie with Marcus Hall among CU’s all-time assists leaders with 423. With 16 points, he passed Spencer Dinwiddie and Burdie Haldorson to move into 26th-place on the all-time scoring list with 1,127 points.

A different approach

Boyle admitted that in years past, in a week of practice like the Buffs had following last week’s wrenching come-from-ahead loss against Oregon State, he would have been on top of his club with a little aggression and fire. He believes he took a somewhat more passive approach with his veteran team this past week, and it proved to be the right approach against Utah.

“A lot of teams that I’ve had in the past, I would’ve crushed them this week. And I would’ve really got into them and challenged them,” Boyle said. “This group is a little different. We watched film on Tuesday, and we certainly watched the end of the Oregon State game and tried to learn from it. So I didn’t do anything different there. But we took Monday off. We practiced Tuesday-Wednesday, had great practices. I took Thursday off. We practiced Friday-Saturday. Not a great practice on Friday but a good one on Saturday.

“I trust this team. I trust their character. I trust their toughness. I trust their togetherness. And tonight there’s a reason why maybe think I would say something like that. They responded, and I think they had a bad taste in their mouths just like I did, and our coaching staff did, and they played like it.”

Notable

CU’s 38 field goals was its most in a conference game since it recorded 41 against Iowa State on Jan. 5, 1991…The Buffs shot a season-high .594 and have topped the 50 percent mark in three of the past six games. It was CU’s best shooting percentage against a conference foe since posting a .596 mark against Cal on Jan. 27, 2013…Tyler Bey passed CU athletics Hall of Famer and alumni weekend attendee Ken Charlton for 16th-place among CU’s all-time leading rebounders with 676.