It still may not quite have been the full 40-minute performance Colorado basketball coach Tad Boyle was hoping to see from his Buffaloes.
But it was darn close, and certainly a Buffs team that moved to No. 23 earlier Monday in the latest AP top 25 poll got the job done defensively from wire to wire. Spurred by that energetic defensive effort, the Buffs forced UC Irvine into a steady stream of mistakes throughout the contest and ultimately picked up an impressive win against a solid nonconference foe with a 69-53 decision at the CU Events Center.
UC Irvine won 31 games last year, including a first-round victory against Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament, and is favored to win the Big West Conference for the second consecutive season. The Buffs improved to 3-0 and will be idle for six days before facing Wyoming in Las Vegas on Sunday as part of the MGM Resorts Main Event.
“We really wanted to get pressure on their ball-handlers. Their guards are their leading scorers, but they play though their bigs,” Boyle said. “We knew our bigs were going to be challenged with post defense all night long. But we wanted pressure on the ball to help our bigs in the post. And I thought we did that for the most part.
“A lot of things we can take positively. Some things we need to get better at is rebounding. We got outrebounded tonight and we’ve got to shore that up a little bit. But for the most part, there’s not a lot of things I can look at this game and get on our guys about. We’ll take it and move on. But we can’t get complacent. We have to understand that every opportunity is a chance to get better and grow. But I like where we are after the first three games.”
UC Irvine committed 22 turnovers, the bulk of them forced by the Buffs’ frenetic defense. That effort led to a 21-9 advantage for the Buffs on points off turnovers. CU recorded 10 steals, with a career-best six coming from junior Tyler Bey.
“Coach really gets on me about just staying in a stance,” Bey said. “I feel like ever since I’ve been staying in a stance I’ve been able to get places faster, be quicker than others, be stronger in the post and stuff like that. Tonight’s just one of those nights where I was in a stance almost every play and I was able to get my hands in passing lanes.”
CU took control with a 10-0 run late in the first half and never trailed the rest of the way, getting five points from D’Shawn Schwartz and a 3-pointer from Daylen Kountz during the game-changing burst. The run helped CU build a 40-30 lead at the break.
CU finished just .393 overall but went 9-for-19 on 3-pointers. The Anteaters outrebounded CU 41-32.
Bey and McKinley Wright paced CU’s offense with 16 points apiece. Wright recorded five assists without a turnover, while Bey posted a team-high seven rebounds to go with those six steals.
“Coach has just really been stressing in practice how good this team was,” Wright said. “They had 31 wins last year. Won a game in the NCAA Tournament. Returned three of their starters. We just had to really dial in to the scouting report, and I think every guy on our roster did that.”
No. 23 COLORADO 69, UC IRVINE 53UC IRVINE (3-2)Edgar 2-5 2-2 7, Rutherford 5-6 0-0 10, Greene 0-3 0-0 0, Worku 3-11 0-0 7, Leonard 3-8 0-0 7, Keeler 0-0 0-0 0, Welp 5-8 0-0 12, Johnson 1-2 2-2 4, Lee 0-2 0-0 0, Cole 0-1 0-0 0, Artest 2-4 0-0 6, Krause 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 21-53 4-4 53.COLORADO (3-0)Battey 2-5 1-3 5, Kountz 2-5 1-3 7, Wright 6-11 2-2 16, Bey 5-13 6-7 16, Schwartz 3-9 0-0 8, Strating 0-0 0-0 0, Siewert 1-3 0-0 2, Walton 0-4 2-2 2, Parquet 1-2 0-0 3, Gatling 2-6 0-0 5, Daniels 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 24-61 12-17 69.Halftime — Colorado 40-30. 3-Point Goals — UC Irvine 7-14 (Welp 2-3, Artest 2-3, Edgar 1-1, Worku 1-2, Leonard 1-4, Lee 0-1), Colorado 9-19 (Kountz 2-3, Schwartz 2-4, Wright 2-4, Parquet 1-1, Daniels 1-1, Gatling 1-2, Bey 0-1, Walton 0-1, Siewert 0-2). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — UC Irvine 41 (Johnson 9), Colorado 32 (Bey 7). Assists — UC Irvine 10 (Worku, Leonard 3), Colorado 14 (Wright 5). Total Fouls — UC Irvine 17, Colorado 8.