They needed to lock down an elite offense, make all the open shots presented to them, and even get lucky down the stretch. All of that happened, D’Shawn Schwartz struck gold, and the Buffs have their best win of this young season, 78-76, over Dayton in Chicago.
The Flyers have one of the very best offenses in the nation, meaning the Buffs would have to find their own scoring ability to stay in the game. Dayton uses a five-out spread pick-and-roll offense that hunts for layups and threes; everyone is exceptionally skilled and that makes them just about impossible to guard. Colorado has an excellent team defense, but Dayton jumped out to a 19-5 lead after making 8-of-9 field goals.
In danger of getting run off the floor, the Buffs adjusted. They tightened up their defensive rotations and calmed down on offense. McKinley Wright IV took full command of the offense, something we have been wanting him to do amidst CU’s offensive struggles this season. Poking and prodding at the Dayton defense, the Buffs waiting until something opened up and attacked. That proved quite effective as the Buffs went on a 16-2 run to close the gap to 21-20 midway through the first half.
Once CU got back into the game, it felt like an NCAA Tournament game, just like it did when these two teams faced off in the NIT last March. Each blow was answered by the other, often in succession, like when Rodney Chatman’s contested three was followed up by the same shot at the other end from Schwartz. Dayton shot the ball better, going 32-of-64 (50%) from the field, but the Buffs were more physical and controlled the boards and the paint.
The Buffaloes trailed 36-32 at the half, but Wright, fresh off a twisted ankle, led them to a commanding second half run. The Buffs knew they could dominate inside and didn’t get cute. Wright attacked hard off the dribble, finishing ridiculous layups and floaters. Evan Battey and Tyler Bey continued to eat on the glass, the latter making a put-back layup to take CU’s first lead of the game.
Colorado was able to go on this 15-6 run because their defense locked up Dayton’s high-flying offense. After being burned by threes in the first half, they adjusted to wall off the perimeter. Even more importantly, Bey shadowed Toppin and effectively neutralized him in the half, aside from alley-oop dunks and a clutch shot later. (Toppin can’t truly be erased, even on his bad nights).
Dayton was never going away easy. Just when CU took a 7-point lead, the Flyers started pulling it back together. Jalen Crutcher was fouled on a three, Mikesell hit a three, and Toppin threw down an insane put-back on his own missed shot. They closed the gap, the Buffs missed multiple free throws down the stretch, and Toppin hit a game-tying three to send the game to overtime.
After Wright led the way the entire game, Schwartz stepped up big time in the extra period. After Schwartz made a three to gave CU the OT lead at 71-68. Dayton took control with three successful makes down the stretch. The Buffs were down one point, 74-73, following a pair of free throws by Bey with 1:19 left. After a missed jumper by Toppin on the next possession, Schwartz drove through the teeth of the Flyers defense to convert a contested layup. Finally, after Crutcher made a go-ahead layup with 10 seconds left to put Dayton up by one, Schwartz made the biggest shot of his career— a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Colorado the two-point win.
Schwartz was one of three Buffs in double-figures with 20 points on the night. Bey gathered up 12 points and six rebounds. Wright finished with a double-double to lead all scorers with a season-high 29 points, along with 10 rebounds. One point shy of his career-high set in the double overtime win over South Dakota State two years ago. Colorado's first win over a ranked team this season. A third straight win for the Buffaloes overall after dropping two games vs. No. 2 Kansas and Northern Iowa.
Colorado returns home to face Iona on Dec. 29 before opening Pac-12 play vs. No. 2 Oregon on Jan 2.
Dayton welcomes Grambling for a pre-Christmas Eve meeting on Monday.