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Comeback timely for Tyler Bey as CU Buffs brace for tough Washington frontcourt

Bey’s sprained right hand less than 100 percent

Colorado’s D’Shawn Schwartz, left, and Tyler Bey crash the boards on Utah’s Both Gach and Branden Carlson, during the January 12, 2020 game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

For the first time in his collegiate career, Tyler Bey had to take in a Colorado Buffaloes basketball game from the sideline.

It was a vantage point Bey made the most of, yet one he would rather avoid having to sit through ever again.

The star forward of the 23rd-ranked Buffs missed the first game of his career during Thursday’s home victory against Washington State, but his absence is expected to be brief. Bey is set to resume his usual place in the starting lineup for Saturday night’s home date against Washington with the Buffs attempting to complete their first Pac-12 Conference sweep of the season while also taking aim at their first win against the Huskies in three years.

On Friday, Bey described his injury as essentially a sprained right (shooting) hand. While Bey reiterated what head coach Tad Boyle said after Thursday’s 78-56 win by stating he could have played against the Cougars if needed, the momentary hiatus allowed Bey to get a little healthier with an injury he also admitted could still provide a few jolts of pain if aggravated against the Huskies.

“I do think that if someone hits it again, the way that I hurt it, it definitely would get worse,” Bey said. “But that’s part of the game. I want to play. It was weird but I’m glad I was there for my teammates and glad we got the (win). It just shows what we’re capable of. When we play together we’re good and can beat any team. It’s just like going to Arizona State. We hadn’t won there and we haven’t beat Washington since I’ve been here. So it’s just another goal to check off the list.”

Bey’s comeback is timely, as the Huskies arrive at CU mired in a rut yet boasting one of the most formidable frontcourts in the Pac-12, led by a pair of potential first round NBA draft picks in freshmen Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels.

Bey leads the Pac-12 in rebounding at 9.3 per game, with Stewart ranking fourth (8.9) and McDaniels 13th (6.4). Both UW players are immensely talented, with Stewart averaging 18 points per game with a .584 field goal percentage and McDaniels averaging 13.1 points with a .333 mark on 3-pointers. However, as freshmen, both are mistake-prone, with Bey’s status as the Buffs’ leader in steals and blocked shots likely to make a difference against the collegiate rookies.

The Stewart-McDaniels duo is averaging nearly five and a half combined turnovers per game, and McDaniels was issued a costly technical foul late in the second half Thursday nights during an unraveling that saw the Huskies blow a 12-point second-half lead at Utah.

“I do think this team likes challenges. I believe that, and for the most part we’ve risen to them this year,” Boyle said. “We had a couple flat performances at Kansas and Arizona, the two toughest places to play, but our other two losses have been heartbreakers and kind of gut-check moments. I believe this team likes challenges and we’ll be ready to go.

“You can’t win both of them unless you win the first one. We’ve done that. We did with Oregon. We did with Arizona State. We did with Washington State. Now the challenge becomes finishing it off and not being satisfied. I told these guys if we want to compete for a Pac-12 championship, we have to win (Saturday). That’s the bottom line. I don’t say that to put pressure on them, because there’s no pressure involved. It’s do you want to do that or not? Because if we do, we’ll come out and play with the intensity and the toughness and the aggressiveness and the energy that we’re going to need to do for 40 minutes.”

Washington Huskies at No. 23 CU Buffs

TIPOFF: Saturday, 7 p.m., CU Events Center.

BROADCAST: TV — Fox Sports 1; Radio — KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Washington 12-8, 2-5 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 15-4, 4-2.

COACHES: Washington — Mike Hopkins, 3rd season (60-30 at UW and overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 10th season (204-127, 260-193 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Washington — F Isaiah Stewart, Fr., 18.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg; F Jaden McDaniels, Fr., 13.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg; G Naz Carter, Jr., 12.5 ppg, 5.3 ppg. Colorado — G McKinley Wright IV, Jr., 13.3 ppg, 5.3 apg, 5.3 rpg; F Tyler Bey, Jr., 13.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg; G/F D’Shawn Schwartz, Jr., 10.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, .402 3-point percentage; F Evan Battey, R-So., 9.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg.

WHAT TO WATCH: Tyler Bey’s right hand. A sprain that will keep Bey’s shooting hand at less than 100 percent prevented Bey from playing against Washington State, but CU needs him in the rotation to slow the UW frontcourt duo of Stewart and McDaniels.

NOTES: The Buffs have lost five consecutive games against UW, dating back to a win at home on Feb. 9, 2017. Senior Lucas Siewert is the only current CU player who was part of that last victory against the Huskies…Siewert is averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 rebounds over the past three games. During that span he also has shot 7-for-15 (.467) on 3-pointers…Wright needs five assists to pass Mike Reid for second-place among CU’s all-time leaders. Wright has averaged 7.9 assists over the past seven games…Bey’s cousin, sophomore Jamal Bey, is averaging 5.7 points for the Huskies with a .378 shooting percentage…Over the past seven games, CU backup guard Maddox Daniels has gone 10-for-18 on 3-pointers…After the game, the Buffs will play seven of their final 11 regular-season games on the road, beginning with next week’s trip through Los Angeles to face USC and UCLA.