Wright Notches Assist Record As Buffs Roll Past Bears
BOULDER — McKinley Wright IV broke Colorado's all-time assist record and freshman Jabari Walker posted his second straight double-double Thursday as the Buffaloes rolled to an 89-60 win over Cal at the CU Events Center.
The Buffs recorded their third straight win to improve to 10-3 overall and 4-2 in Pac-12 play while Cal fell to 6-8, 1-6.
Wright entered the game needing just one assist to break a tie and move past former Buffs great Jay Humphries' 37-year old record of 562 assists. He accomplished the feat less than three minutes in when he dished off to Evan Battey for a layup. Wright then added an exclamation point, finishing with a career-high 12 assists to go with 13 points for his second double-double of the season and 13th of his career.
The 12 assists also tied for the sixth-most in school history and were the most since Askia Booker dished out 12 at UCLA on Feb. 13, 2014.
Walker, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds in CU's win over Utah on Monday, led Colorado with a career-high 23 points and 11 rebounds while D'Shawn Schwartz added 18 points and Maddox Daniels chipped in 12.
Andre Kelly led the Bears with 16 points.
Colorado put the game away in the first half, rallying from an early 18-11 deficit to finish the half with a 23-5 surge for a 34-23 lead at the break. The Buffs then extended their lead for much of the second half, pushing their margin to as much as 31 late in the game.
CU head coach Tad Boyle called the Buffs' performance a "workmanlike effort," and made sure to give Wright his due recognition.
"Obviously it's a great day for McKinley Wright, breaking Jay Humphries' 37-year–old assist record," Boyle said. "It's a long time to hold a record. Jay's a terrific person, was a terrific player here and the guy that broke his record is deserving and equally a great human being. I'm really happy for McKinley and his teammates … Before it's all said and done, McKinley Wright is going to go down as one of the all-time greatest players ever to play at this university."
Wright — who also moved past Randy Downs into 10th place on CU's all-time scoring list with 1,568 points — called the opportunity to set the career record a "blessing."
"I want to thank God," he said. "And a big shoutout to my teammates and coaching staff. When you have teammates like I've had over the last four years and the coaching staff, when they believe in you and they trust you, it makes my job so much easier. They've been helping me and I've been helping them. It's a blessing."
HOW IT HAPPENED: After falling behind 18-11 following a 10-0 Cal run midway through the first half, the Buffs seized control over the last nine minutes of the period, using a 23-5 surge to take a 34-23 lead into intermission.
Walker, who had 17 points in the first half, fueled the run with two 3-pointers — both off assists from Wright — to start the surge. He then added a dunk and another 3-pointer while Jeriah Horne and Daniels also had 3-pointers in the decisive run.
"That made my job easy," Wright said. "Coming off the screen with Evan (Battey), he's such a threat in the paint that they were worried about me throwing it into him. It was just an easy read. Just throw it back to 'Bari. We're confident in his shot. We know he can shoot it. I told him, 'Keep letting it fly.' He's special. No. 12 is special."
While the Buffs were finding their groove on offense, they also turned up the defensive heat. CU forced Cal turnovers on six straight possessions in the final six minutes and the Bears scored just five points over the last 9:41 of the half.
The Bears never managed to mount much of a threat in the second half. They briefly managed to cut CU's lead to nine early in the period, but Colorado quickly pushed the margin back to double digits. The Buffs' lead hit 20 points, 56-36, on a Daniels 3-pointer with 12:31 still to play and CU expanded the edge to 31 in the final minutes.
Colorado finished with a decisive edge in nearly every category. CU held a 31-28 lead on the boards, shot 55% for the game (33-for-60) compared to Cal's 43% shooting (21-for-49), and forced 16 Bears turnovers while committing only seven miscues.
Walker finished 9-for-13 from the floor, including a perfect 3-for-3 day from long range that improved his season shooting to 11-for-21 from beyond the arc.
"I love playing with Kin," Walker said of the connection he and Wright developed during the game. "I know if I'm open, he's going to find me. You can't ask much more from a point guard who can score and open up the floor for you. With him doing that, you know the game's going to open up and it's my job to knock down those shots, which I'm glad I did."
TURNING POINT: Colorado used a 23-5 run over the final nine minutes of the first half to seize control and the Bears never threatened again.
WHAT IT MEANS: With their third straight win, the Buffs remain in solid position to move into the top four of the conference standings, especially with another home game up next.
KEY STATISTICS: Colorado forced 16 Cal turnovers and converted those miscues into 23 points … The Buffs shot 57 percent from 3-point range (12-for-21), with six different players hitting at least one trey … The Buffs tied their season low with just seven turnovers.
NOTEWORTHY: Walker's 23 points were the most by a freshman since Wright IV had 30 against South Dakota State in December 2017. Walker has made five straight 3-point attempts … D'Shawn Schwartz hit three 3-point field goals to move into 12th on CU's all-time list with 128. His next three will move him into a tie for 10th with Levi Knutson (2007-11) and Donnie Boyce (1991-95) … Eli Parquet had a career-high three steals … Freshman Isaac Jessup scored his first collegiate points with a pair of free throws in the final minutes … Colorado's 33 field goals and 55 percent shooting were both season highs … Colorado improved to 4-0 at home this season
NEXT UP: Colorado plays host to Stanford on Saturday in a 1 p.m. game at the Events Center (Pac-12 Networks).