No. 23 Colorado hopes to dial up defense vs. Wyoming

The Associated Press

No. 23 Colorado looks to continue its unbeaten start Sunday when it faces Wyoming in the semifinals of the MGM Resorts Main Event at Las Vegas.

The Buffaloes (3-0) kicked off the MGM Resorts Main Event with a 69-53 win Monday in a campus-site game against 2019 NCAA Tournament participant UC Irvine.

"They were dialed in defensively and they did it for 40 minutes," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said of his players in his postgame press conference. "We held one of the most efficient teams in the country to 38 percent (shooting) and held them to 53 points. To me, that makes your heart feel pretty warm as a coach.

"It is one game, but you can learn from that. You can learn from things that happen positively."

Wyoming (3-3) enters play Sunday with a two-game winning streak. After dropping three in a row, the Cowboys blew out Detroit Mercy 76-49 on Tuesday, then outlasted Louisiana in overtime on Thursday, 69-61.

Wyoming has endured up-and-down play through the early going of the season, particularly on the offensive end. The Cowboys have the nation's 62nd-ranked field-goal percentage from inside the 3-point arc at 54.4 percent, but they rank 308th from long distance.

The Cowboys scored just 32 points in a Nov. 10 loss at South Carolina, which was bookended by 54- and 53-point performances against Idaho State and Cal State Fullerton, respectively.

"We had to step up offensively tonight," Wyoming coach Allen Edwards said following the Thursday night win. "Hunter Thompson came out of his slump, which was huge. We had four guys in double figures."

Thompson, who had just 27 total points through five games, scored 22 against the Ragin' Cajuns.

Wyoming has been dramatically better offensively in its wins. Four Cowboys scoring in double figures against Louisiana marked a step forward for a team with only Hunter Maldonado averaging more than 8.3 points per game. He is scoring 16.5 per contest coming into Sunday's matchup.

Conversely for Colorado, three Buffs average between 12.7 and 15 points per game through the first three, led by preseason All-Pac-12 Conference selections Tyler Bey at 15 and McKinley Wright IV at 14.7. Wright is also averaging five assists and five rebounds per game while Bey is contributing 9.7 rebounds per game.

D'Shawn Schwartz joins Bey and Wright at 12.7 points per game, and he has shot a torrid 58.3 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

As a team, Colorado's 44.1 percent average from deep ranks among the nation's best. The Buffs were 56th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency as of Friday, per advanced metrics. However, Colorado has stormed out to a strong early start thanks to defense.

After allowing 71 points to Pac-12 counterpart Arizona State in a season-opening game in China, Colorado held San Diego and UC Irvine to 53 points apiece.

The Buffs rank near the top nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, and they are generating turnovers on 26 percent of opponent possessions.

Bey has 11 steals, and Daylen Kountz has four steals in three games.

Following the Cowboys' win on Thursday, Edwards touted Wyoming's own defensive prowess. The Cowboys have held opponents to just 28.1 percent shooting from 3-point range, which could be a factor on Sunday.

--Field Level Media

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