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Buffs Head To Cal In Search Of Bay Area Sweep

Feb 12, 2021
CU's McKinley Wright IV needs just two rebounds to become the first player in Pac-12 history with 1,600 points, 600 assists and 600 rebounds.

CU Game Notes

BERKELEY, Calif. — Colorado coach Tad Boyle's message to his Buffaloes following Thursday's 69-51 win over Stanford was short and to the point:

"I told them after the game, good teams split on the road in Pac-12 play. Great teams sweep," said Boyle, whose Buffs improved to 16-5 overall and 10-4 in conference play with the win. "We did the first part. Now we have to turn our attention to Cal."

The Buffs will get their chance for a road trip sweep Saturday, when they face off with the Bears (7-15, 2-13) in an 8 p.m. game at Haas Pavilion (ESPNU).

Road trips sweeps have been incredibly rare in Colorado's time in the Pac-12. The Buffaloes have swept two wins on a conference road trip just twice in their 10 years in the conference — wins over Oregon and Oregon State in 2013 and victories over UCLA and USC in 2019.

Thursday's win over Stanford improved CU's conference road record to 4-3, matching the most Pac-12 road victories in program history. Numbers suggest the chances for improving that record and collecting a road trip sweep in the process are good.

The Bears are mired in last place in the conference standings and have lost seven in a row. In their first meeting this season in Boulder, the Buffs rolled to an 89-60 victory that saw CU outscore the visitors 55-37 in the second half.

But there's no doubt Boyle will do his best to make sure the Buffs don't take the matchup lightly. Cal just missed a comeback win over Utah on Thursday before dropping a 76-75 decision, and the Bears do have some talent in their lineup, beginning with junior guard Matt Bradley, who is averaging 18.5 points per game.

Boyle will also no doubt remind his team of last year's game in Berkeley, when the 21-7 Buffaloes were soundly thumped by the 11-16 Bears, 76-62.

What no one needs to remind the Buffs about is that the stakes are increasing with every game at this point in the season. CU currently sits in third place in the Pac-12 standings and is still in contention for a Pac-12 regular season title.

Perhaps more importantly, the Buffs are the highest-ranked Pac-12 team in ratings systems used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. As of Friday, CU was No. 12 in the NET rankings and No. 11 in the Kenpom ratings, both of which are key components of the selection process. Another road win will only help their cause in those rankings.

To get that win, the Buffs will need to continue playing the kind of defense they've shown in the last two games. In wins over Stanford and Oregon State, Colorado has held its opponents to a combined 37 percent shooting from the field while forcing 32 turnovers.

"This program is based on defense and rebounding," said CU senior point guard McKinley Wright IV. "We have so many offensive weapons, offense isn't a huge concern for us. As long as we can get stops and get out and run, we're a really good team. We're hard to beat."

The Buffs are no doubt playing their best basketball of the season. They have won three in a row, five of their last six and nine of their last 11. Along with their solid defense over the last few games, they are also shooting nearly 48 percent from 3-point range over the last six games since going 1-for-18 from beyond the arc in an 84-80 loss at Washington.

WRIGHT COUNTDOWN: With 1,674 career points, 623 assists and 598 rebounds, Wright is now just two rebounds away from becoming the first player in Pac-12 history to record 1,600 points, 600 assists and 600 rebounds.

He is coming off a 14-point, nine-rebound, nine-assist effort in the win over Stanford. His current numbers make him the Pac-12's active leader in career points and assists and second in rebounds.

"Usually you say he's in elite company .. he's at an elite level," Boyle said. "There's no company with him. You think of all the four-year guys who have come through the Pac-12 and he's in a category by himself. That says it all. The kid's been doing it from his freshman year all the way through his senior year. I've said it before, he's a once-in-a-lifetime player to coach."

BROADCAST: The game will be televised by ESPNU with Roxy Bernstein and Adrian Branch. KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM will carry the radio broadcast with Voice of the Buffs Mark Johnson and Scott Wilke.