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Buffs Battle Past Grand Canyon

Dec 22, 2020

WATCH: Highlights | Stats (PDF) | Notes | WATCH: Tad Boyle Postgame | WATCH: McKinley Wright IV Postgame | WATCH: Evan Battey Postgame | WATCH: Pac-12 Recap | WATCH: Evan Battey on Pac-12 Network | Boxscore

LAS VEGAS — Tad Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes used a late surge Tuesday night to propel themselves past Grand Canyon, 74-64, at T-Mobile Arena. 

The Buffs improved to 6-1 while the Lopes fell to 4-3.

McKinley Wright IV led the Buffaloes in scoring with 21 points as well as assists with seven. Evan Battey notched 16 points and Jeriah Horne added 12 off the bench.  

While Colorado led for most of the game, the Buffs could not put GCU away until the final minutes. After GCU cut Colorado's lead to one point with 5:17 left in the contest, the Buffs used a 10-0 surge to take a 70-59 lead and then kept the Lopes at bay down the stretch.

"This team is resilient and tough," Boyle said. "We got outrebounded by 13, they (GCU) shot almost 51% on us, and we won by 10. I knew, even after the Tennessee loss, that there was something about this team that's special that you can't put into words. There's a toughness and a resiliency that they have."

Colorado committed just seven turnovers the entire game and forced 17 from GCU. The Buffs were also able to score 21 points off those miscues. 

Jovan Blacksher Jr. led Grand Canyon with 17 points. 

HOW IT HAPPENED: Grand Canyon used a 6-0 run at the end of the first half to tie the score at 27-27 going into the break. Colorado struggled offensively to end the period, failing to score in the final 5:16. The Buffs also shot just 36.4% (8-for-22) in the first half.

Colorado began the second half aggressively and got a steal from Eli Parquet on the Lopes' first possession, which led to a Battey layup. The basket was part of a 12-4 run, which gave the Buffs a 39-31 lead.  

But Grand Canyon did not go away, and used a 3-pointer from Chance McMillian out of a timeout to bring the Lopes to within five. The Lopes kept the game close until the Buffs went on an 8-2 run capped off by a Maddox Daniels 3-pointer for a 57-48 lead. 

The Lopes responded again, however, and used a 6-0 burst out of a timeout to get the game to within three 57-54. Then, after Wright hit a layup and a free throw, Blacksher hit a 3-pointer and Jayden Stone came up with a steal to produce a GCU layup to shrink CU's lead to just one point, 60-59. 

But after a Colorado timeout, Horne hit a 3-pointer, which sparked the decisive 10-0 CU. The run produced a 70-59 Colorado lead with 2:32 remaining and the Lopes never came closer than nine again.

Horne had five points in the surge, Battey added a pair of free throws and Wright had three points including a jumper off an offensive rebound from Dallas Walton. 

Wright came up with some key moments down the stretch including the final two buckets for the Buffaloes that secured the win for the team. 

"When you have your head coach believe in you the way coach Boyle believes in me, it makes my job so much easier," Wright said. "He gives me the freedom to go out there and play my game, make the reads that I see, and just take control of the team." 

Grand Canyon was a quality opponent that helped the Buffs get prepared for conference play. 

"We're going to have these kinds of games once we get into Pac-12 play," Boyle said. "That's why this game was so good for us. At halftime I mentioned to our staff this was a good test for our team and one that we needed." 

TURNING POINT: Jeriah Horne hit a three pointer out of a Colorado timeout to start a 10-0 Colorado run that helped the Buffs secure the win. 

KEY STATISTICS: The Buffs protected the ball and turned the ball over just seven times while forcing 17 turnovers from GCU. 

NEXT UP: Colorado will begin Pac-12 conference play Monday when they travel to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats at 7:30 p.m.