De­fense to boast new look sans Wal­ton

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pat Rooney

BOULDE R » While he was ex­pected to de­liver more this sea­son, the glass-half-full out­look on the loss of 7-footer Dal­las Wal­ton is that the Col­orado bas­ket­ball team only has to re­place the 5.7 points and 3.4 re­bounds per game Wal­ton con­trib­uted a year ago.

Cer­tainly that over­sim­pli­fies the dy­namic the Buf­faloes lost when Wal­ton went down with a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury on Oct. 16, par­tic­u­larly at the de­fen­sive end of the floor. With­out Wal­ton, the Buffs will play the 2018-19 sea­son with­out their top shot-blocker, and a big­ger bur­den will be placed on for­wards Lucas Siew­ert, Evan Bat­tey and Tyler Bey to lead CU’s in­te­rior de­fense.

“Our post de­fen­sive phi­los­o­phy is they can’t score it down there if they don’t catch it down there,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “We’re not go­ing to elim­i­nate catches on the post, but we have to limit them. Es­pe­cially against a good low-post player, we’ve got to front the post and make them catch it fur­ther away from the bas­ket.

“The phi­los­o­phy was the same with Dal­las. The dif­fer­ence was Dal­las could play be­hind a guy be­cause he’s 7-foot tall and can con­test shots. Our in­te­rior de­fense is go­ing to be an is­sue for our team. But we switch a lot on ball screens, so a lot of times it might be our point guard down there guard­ing the post. Same men­tal­ity — they can’t score it if they can’t catch it.”

Wal­ton led the Buffs with 34 blocked shots a year ago, but his de­fen­sive im­pact of­ten was dif­fi­cult to dis­cern with a quick glance at any box score. In Pac-12 Con­fer­ence games last year, CU posted a league-best de­fen­sive field goal per­cent­age of .422. Given the Buffs fin­ished in a tie for sixth in de­fen­sive 3-point per­cent­age (.357), much of the leg­work for that league-lead­ing over­all to­tal can be cred­ited to Wal­ton’s abil­ity to al­ter shots in the paint.

“We’ve got to play a lot bet­ter de­fense on the perime­ter, be­cause we don’t have a shot-blocker sit­ting there wait­ing for the ball to come to him,” sopho­more for­ward Tyler Bey said. “Peo­ple were scared to come to Dal­las, so that’s go­ing to change some­thing. I think if we just do our job — like jump­ing to the ball, be­ing in help — we’ll be okay.”

When the Buffs open the sea­son at home Tues­day night against Drake (6 p.m., Pac-12 Net­work) Bey, Siew­ert and Bat­tey will form a three-man post ro­ta­tion that will lack the same depth with­out Wal­ton. At 6-foot-7 the ath­letic Bey will be un­der­sized against some of the big­ger post play­ers in the Pac-12, though his leap­ing abil­ity will negate any size dis­ad­van­tage against some post foes. Bat­tey, a 6-foot-8 red­shirt fresh­man, is some­what of an un­known quan­tity on de­fense, while the 6-10 Siew­ert looks to build on a strong fin­ish last sea­son.

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