Less than a week ago, the University of Colorado Buffaloes and Washington State Cougars faced off in Pullman, Washington. Wednesday night, they reunited at the CU Events Center in Boulder. Last time out, the Buffs struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first half, forcing them to make a major comeback to secure the victory. A comeback was not needed on Wednesday as CU came away victorious once again, 70-58.
Colorado came into the game tied with Arizona at 6-3 for third place in the Pac-12. Winning this game was essential for the Buffs, as they are looking to take the third spot for themselves. With a win against Washington State, the Buffs at least temporarily claimed third place as Arizona will host Stanford on Thursday.
With pumped in crowd noise echoing throughout the CU Events Center, which can hold over 11,000 spectators, appeared like a ghost town. This didn’t seem to phase the players, all of which are now accustomed to the feeling of an empty arena.
After an initial slow start, the Buffs heated up fast. Seven minutes into the game, they began a 20-0 run in just over a five minute period. Shooting 8-of-9 from the three-point line in the first half, the Buffs were on fire. Leading 39-24 at the half, it seemed they were just getting started.
Senior guard McKinley Wright IV looked like the definition of a leader. Even when he is not on the court, his presence was known. His athletic talent was just as obvious. At 6-feet tall with sneaky fast feet, he found holes in just about any opening on the court. His brilliance hasn’t gone unnoticed, as he is now a top-10 finalist for the prestigious Bob Cousy award, given to the best point guard in the nation. Wright added onto his school-record in assists with a team-leading seven assists, including his 600th career dish.
Wright’s excellence showed once again on Wednesday night with a team-high 16 points. He did have a few close followers, however, including Tulsa grad transfer forward Jeriah Horne with 15 and junior forward Evan Battey with 14. Horne was also electric from the three-point line, making three of his five attempts.
With a nation-leading 83.9 free throw percentage, the Buffs certainly did not disappoint against WSU. They made 20-of-23 (87%) from the stripe to boost that mark even higher.
Throughout the second half, the Buffs struggled to repeat their early success, falling victim to sloppy and unnecessary fouls. Colorado committed 11 fouls in the second half compared to just three in the first half. After multiple shot clock violations and going scoreless for over 5 minutes, a three-pointer by senior guard D’Shawn Schwartz shifted the momentum back toward the Buffs.
Both junior guard Eli Parquet and senior guard Maddox Daniels had to play it safe throughout the second half, as they collected 3 personal fouls each and were at risk of fouling out of the game. These two also led the Buffs with two steals each.
As the game progressed toward the end, tensions were visibly high. CU’s lead shrunk throughout the entirety of the second half but the aggression proved fatal for the Cougars, as they committed multiple costly fouls that contributed to a Buffs victory.
Although CU ended up with the win, the team spoke as though they just took a loss, disappointed in their own performance. Wright stressed the importance of keeping energy high as he blamed himself for the Buffs’ slow second half.
“A win is a win, but we’re not satisfied,” Wright said. “We’re competing for a Pac-12 championship; Tonight’s effort isn’t going to cut it.”
Head coach Tad Boyle echoed Wright in that although they got a win, it didn’t feel like much of a victory. He said CU will have plenty of things to improve on before they face Utah on Saturday.
“I think anybody who watched that game tonight and saw how we played, especially towards the end of the first half offensively, and then in the second half offensively, understands that Colorado’s got to play better than that,” Boyle said.
The Buffs will play game two of a five-game homestand on Saturday against the Utah Utes at 7:30 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Logan Standard at email@example.com.
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