We talked all preseason that Tad Boyle built the schedule to test his guys. Their first game was a trip to China to face the frenetic Arizona State Sun Devils and their second was against a San Diego team that grinds people down with defense. Their third opponent, UC Irvine, went 31-4 last season, beat Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament, and return three starters from that team. They are an experienced team that knows how to find their shots while taking away what you do best.
The Buffs got off to a slow start as they adjusted to UC-Irvine. The Anteaters took away driving lanes with a deep zone and dared the Buffs to shoot. For a while, CU struggled as they settled into contested mid-range jumpers and off-balance threes. UCI generated some clean looks too with their motion offense and the two teams were neck-and-neck for the first fifteen minutes.
With six minutes left in the first half, the Buffs got hot. They got three-pointers from Eli Parquet, D’Shawn Schwartz and Daylen Kountz. Tyler Bey threw down a fast break dunk. McKinley Wright assisted three of those while pushing the pace after defensive stops. During that dominant span, Colorado went on a 14-2 run before settling in for a 40-30 halftime lead. It was a reminder that as long as Colorado hangs around while adjusting, that run will come, especially with such a deep and versatile roster.
The game slowed down considerably entering the second half. Neither team was making any shots, but the Anteaters were sure to get back on defense and not allow the Buffs to run. From there, Colorado had to work hard to get clean looks. They’re still learning how to beat experienced teams in the halfcourt, but even as they struggled to finish those looks, it is encouraging to see CU looking more patient and confident moving the ball.
This is the time of the year to be doing that learning, because UC-Irvine was overmatched on the offensive end. Colorado just had so much length and anticipation on the floor — Tyler Bey was marvelous — that the Anteaters had to force a bunch of passes that weren’t there. CU jumped on those chances and closed out the game with a 22-7 turnover margin.
The Buffaloes rolled to a 69-53 win. UC-Irvine is a very good that might make the NCAA Tournament, so this was a strong win for CU. They showed that they can win even with their offense scuffling because they will take care of the ball and play standout defense. This team keeps winning in different ways, and that’s very encouraging to see.