BOULDER, Colo. — Colorado turned up the defensive pressure, hit the boards hard and its offense took off.
Namon Wright scored 14 points, Deleon Brown had 13 and Colorado pulled away in the second half to beat Denver 89-62 Tuesday night.
McKinley Wright added 12 points and George King 11 for Colorado (2-0), which has won 18 of its last 19 nonconference games at the Coors Events Center.
“Defense is always our first priority,” Namon Wright said. “They were a good team and hit their shots. Eventually, our defense wore them down and they began to miss shots and get tired in the second half.”
Denver’s Daniel Amigo had a game-high 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting, connecting on two of his three shots from three-point range. Joe Rosga added 15 points for Denver (0-2).
Denver pulled to within 51-45 on a pair of free throws by Rosga, but the Buffaloes re-asserted themselves with a 12-1 run punctuated by Tyler Bey’s dunk on a lob from McKinley Wright.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons on this team, a lot of capable players,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “We did wear them down and I think our defense really helped our offense at times tonight. When we get out in transtion, we’re pretty good. That lob from McKinley to Tyler was pretty special, and there could be more of that stuff with the kind of athletes that we have when we get stops.”
With 4:28 left, Brown drove in for a layup that boosted Colorado’s lead to 77-54, it’s biggest advantage in the game to that point.
Denver coach Rodney Billups noted his squad shot just 30 percent from the field in the second half after converting 55.6 percent of its shots in the first half and also noted the Buffaloes had four days between games while his squad had just a couple days rest since playing its opener.
“I’d hate to say we ran out of gas but those shots usually go in for us,” Billups said. “Those guys got to rest for four days and we played two days ago. They had a lot more energy.”
Amigo conceded the Pioneers struggled to get their game going in the second half.
“The second half we just came out flat,” he said. “We didn’t pick it up. They picked the level up in the second half, that’s what good teams do.”
Brown scored nine of his points in the first half, helping Colorado move in front 43-33.
The Buffaloes outscored the Pioneers 14-8 in the last 4:30 of the opening period to build their 10-point edge at the break, highlighted by McKinley Wright’s steal and fastbreak layup in the middle of the surge.
Denver: The Pioneers kept within striking distance for much of the game but seemed to wear down midway through the second period, unable to contend with Colorado’s depth. Amigo, a senior, stands out as the Pioneers offensive centerpiece.
Colorado: Despite a revamped roster that features eight players seeing action in a Colorado uniform for the first time this season, the Buffaloes are displaying a wealth of depth. Of the 11 players who played at least 12 minutes, all scored and had at least one rebound.
Retired NBA star Chauncey Billups, a Colorado alum, watched the game from a courtside seat rooting for his younger brother, Denver coach Rodney Billups as he guided his team against his alma mater. “It was very different,” Chauncey Billups said after the game. “For the first time in my life, I cheered against the Buffs. Blood is thicker than water. It was good. I’m just so happy and proud of him. He’s doing a really good job trying to turn that team around.” The younger Billups also has a connection to Colorado, having served six seasons as an assistant to Tad Boyle before being hired to coach Denver before last season.
ON THE BOARDS
Colorado outrebounded Denver 2-to-1 (46-23). The 23-rebound margin was the best for Colorado since outrebounding Fort Lewis by the same measure, 46-23, on Dec. 2, 2015.
Denver: Returns home to host Johnson & Wales on Thursday night.
Colorado: Heads to Liberty University in Virginia to play Quinnipiac on Friday night in the opener of the Paradise Jam tournament.