Buffs Get Crucial Road Win At Oregon State
CORVALLIS, Ore. — McKinley Wright IV scored 21 points and the Colorado Buffaloes held off Oregon State down the stretch Saturday to collect a 61-57 win over the Beavers at Gill Coliseum.
The Buffs, who ended a two-game losing streak, improved to 17-7 overall and 11-6 in Pac-12 play while the Beavers fell to 11-11, 7-9.
The win was CU's fifth on the road in Pac-12 play, the most conference road wins by a Colorado team since the 1961-62 season. CU's 11th conference win also ties for the most by the Buffs in the Pac-12 era.
Wright scored 15 of his points in the second half, including CU's first 11 of the period, helping Colorado regain the lead after OSU had pulled into a 35-35 tie. His 3-pointer with 16:09 remaining in the game ended a near-four-minute CU scoring drought and gave Colorado a lead it never relinquished. He then scored the next eight points for CU as the Buffs slowly built their lead to 10, then held the Beavers at bay over the final minutes.
Evan Battey and Jeriah Horne each chipped in 10 points to CU's total while D'Shawn Schwartz, Dallas Walton and Battey each grabbed six rebounds.
Ethan Thompson led OSU with 18 points, but he shot just 6-for-17 from the field. Colorado also held Oregon State's Jarod Lucas to just five points, less than half his season average.
"McKinley Wright was great down the stretch," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "We made free throws when we had to and I thought our perimeter defense was a great defensive effort. That's what won us the game tonight."
The Buffs held Oregon State to just 36% shooting (21-for-58) and held a 34-30 rebound edge. That helped make up for another off night from 3-point range for CU (4-for-18), the Buffs' third straight game below 25% from long range.
The Buffs also found a way to get back to the free throw line. Colorado hit 19 of its 22 attempts, the most free throws the Buffs have shot in their last seven games, while OSU was 9-for-12.
"When you're having trouble shooting the ball, you have to get the ball to the rim, you have to finish in the lane or you'd better get to the free throw line," Boyle said. "Tonight we were able to get to the free throw line for the first time in what seems like forever."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado led by six at the half, 35-29, only to see the Beavers open the second period with a 6-0 run to tie the game and threaten to seize momentum in the process.
Wright, however, put the Buffs back in control with a 3-pointer — his first in five games. The bucket came following a wild Schwartz toss at the basket that just beat the shot clock and an offensive rebound by Battey.
"Coach Boyle has been telling me to continue to shoot the ball," Wright said. "My 3-point percentage has been in a slump. To see that one go through was big for me."
Wright then scored CU's next eight points as the Buffs slowly rebuilt their lead.
"At some point, you need your best player or players to make plays when things are coming down the stretch," Boyle said. "Players make plays or they don't make plays. McKinley made plays tonight."
CU took a 48-43 edge on a Tristan da Silva bucket inside midway through the period, then extended the margin to 10 with 4:19 to play on a Schwartz basket to cap a 7-2 run. Da Silva had a three-point play in the run and Wright added a 12-footer.
Oregon State then cut CU's edge to four with 30 seconds to play, but Horne hit two free throws with 26 seconds remaining to give CU a 61-55 lead and OSU managed just one more basket in the final seconds.
"It feels good to get back on the right track," Wright said. "It was a win we needed and I'm happy we came here and got it."
Along with ending CU's two-game losing streak — the only time this year the Buffs have lost consecutive games — the victory also put to rest media and fans' comparisons to last year's season-ending five game slide.
"I'm not even thinking about last year and I know our players aren't," Boyle said. "That's for the media to talk about and bring up, fans to worry about. This is a new year and a new team. These guys fight and battle … You move on to the next game. That's the one thing this team has done a really good job of this year, better than their fans, better than their media followers. The coaching staff has done a good job of not dwelling on the past but learning from it."
Colorado started slowly, falling behind 9-3 early before using an an 11-0 run to take the lead. Horne had five points in the run on a 3-pointer and dunk while CU's defense was recording five straight defensive stops to help Colorado to a 14-9 edge.
CU extended its lead to eight at a couple different junctures of the second half, but the Beavers sliced the margin to three in the final minute with six unanswered points.
The Buffs, though, had the last word in the half, getting a Horne 3-pointer just before the buzzer to take a 35-29 lead into intermission.
TURNOVER TROUBLES: The Buffs had another rough night in the turnover department, committing 16 miscues that led to 18 Beavers points.
"Our turnovers are becoming an issue," Boyle said. "That's where we're making it hard on ourselves."
WRIGHT STUFF: Wright moved into eighth place on CU's all-time scoring list, surpassing Josh Scott. He also became only the seventh Division I player to hit 1,700 points, 600 assists and 600 rebounds for his career.
TURNING POINT: After OSU tied the game early in the second half with a 6-0 run, the Beavers appeared on the verge of seizing momentum and taking control. Instead, the Buffs regrouped to take the lead on a Wright 3-pointer and never relinquished it for the remainder of the game.
WHAT IT MEANS: Colorado now holds sole possession of fourth place in the Pac-12 standings. More importantly, the Buffs picked up a critical road win that should help their NET and Kenpom.com rankings, two metrics used by the NCAA Selection Committee.
KEY STATISTICS: CU held OSU to 36% shooting (21-for-58) … Colorado hit 19 of 22 free throws … The Buffs had a 34-30 rebounding edge … OSU's two leading scorers combined for just 23 points on 7-for-26 shooting.
NEXT UP: The Buffs return home for a pair of games next week that are currently scheduled as the last two in the regular season. CU hosts USC at 7 p.m. Thursday (ESPN2 or ESPNU), followed by an 8 p.m. matchup Saturday with UCLA (ESPN2 or ESPNU).