Tuesday, November 19, 2019

No. 23 Colorado 69, UC Irvine 53: Buffaloes rely on altitude and defense to knock off the Anteaters

Photo Credit: David Zalubowski- Associated Press

By: Adam Chalifoux
Twitter: @FantasticMrFoux

BOULDER, CO— The No. 23 Colorado Buffaloes’ defense once again proved to be the difference maker at home as they defeated the visiting UC Irvine Anteaters, 69-53. 

Despite losing the rebounding battle, 41-32 and having trouble with big-man Collin Welp who led the Anteaters with 12 points, the Buffaloes were able to hold Eyassu Worku, who came into the game averaging 15 points per game to just seven points on three-for-12 shooting.

Colorado (3-0) came into the game with a 129-24 under Tad Boyle. The Anteaters (3-2) have proven to be a giant slayer at times and undoubtedly road warriors with a 15-3 mark over their last two seasons. Early on, it looked like it could go that way.

At first Colorado struggled with shot selection, shot under 40 percent through the first ten minutes. Where Buffs’ offense lacked however, their defense was able to step up. That is where it starts for head coach Tad Boyle and his team.

“They were dialed in defensively and they did it for 40 minutes,” said Boyle, “And we held one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country to just percent and held them to 53 points...”

The Buffaloes finished the game with ten steals, six of them coming from junior guard Tyler Bey, who finished the game with 16 points as well to tie for the games’ leading scorer alongside McKinley Wright. After the game, Boyle lauded Bey’s effort defensively. 

“When Tyler moves his feet and he plays with awareness and energy on defense, holy cow.. I mean he is disruptive because he is so athletic and he’s so quick and I thought his energy level and awareness level,” Boyle said. “He had a steal in the second half out of a ball-screen X-out that was a big time play I mean Irvine made the right read, Tyler made the play because of his length and athleticism.”

When asked about what went into his six steals, Bey deferred to Boyle and the reminder of staying discipline at all times. 

“Coach really just told me about staying in my stance,” said Bey. “I feel like ever since I have been staying in my stance, I’ve been able to get to places faster and be quicker than others, be stronger in the post and tonight was just one of those nights where I was in the stance almost every play and I was able to get my hands in passing lanes and stuff like that.” 

With the help from one of the best home court advantages in the nation, the Buffaloes were able to control the tempo as they began to pull away late in the first half. The first twenty minutes were highlighted by a 14-2 Buffaloes run as they took a 40-30 lead into the half after the close start. It was hard to see then but it was the beginning of the end of the Anteaters.

“Playing in Colorado against teams from California which we’ve done the last two games, we’ve got altitude on our side, we’ve got to get the pace of the game going,” said Boyle. “Cal Irvine is a deep team so they can kinda whether that a little bit with their depth but I think you saw San Diego really get fatigued in the second half so that pressure at home kinda gets the pace of the game going and we’re a deep team so we can expend some of that energy and I really like what we’re seeing from our guards defensively.”

The Anteaters were able to cut the deficit to six points early in the second half and attempted to give Buffaloes a taste of their own medicine with an intense half court trap. Colorado was eventually able to weather the storm however by sticking with a small ball lineup to provide them with quick movement off the ball and multiple ball-handlers. 

Defensively, Colorado’s quicker players continued to disrupt passing lanes forcing 13 more turnovers to make it 22 on the night for the Anteaters. Colorado’s defense once again created opportunities for the offense as they scored 13 points off turnovers in the second half and 22 total for the night. 

Colorado is now 3-0 on the season and will take on Wyoming on Sunday next.