Buffs Pull Away Down Stretch To Top Arizona State
BOULDER — Colorado's McKinley Wright IV scored 24 points in his final game at the CU Events Center and the Buffaloes survived a shaky start Thursday to pull away down the stretch for a 75-61 win over Arizona State.
The victory, which put Colorado in position for the third seed in next week's Pac-12 tournament, improved the Buffs to 20-7 overall and 14-6 in Pac-12 play. ASU fell to 10-12, 7-9. The only way CU could lose the No. 3 seed is if Saturday's USC-UCLA game is canceled.
Jeriah Horne added a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double for the Buffs and D'Shawn Schwartz chipped in 11 points.
Holland Woods led the Sun Devils with 15 points but the Buffs held ASU's Remy Martin, the Pac-12's leading scorer, to just six points on 1-for-9 shooting.
The Buffs started slowly, committing 10 turnovers in the first half and scoring just eight points in the first 10 minutes as ASU led by six midway through the period. But Colorado recovered enough to take a 31-30 lead at intermission, then dominated the Sun Devils in the second half to pull away down the stretch for the win. CU used an 8-0 run five minutes into the half to take the lead for good, then put the game away with a 10-1 surge with six minutes to play.
Colorado finished with a commanding 44-28 lead on the boards, including a 27-12 edge in the second half. The Buffs also shot 48 percent from the floor after intermission while holding ASU to just 30 percent shooting in the period, and CU had just three turnovers in the second half.
"It was a special win on a special night," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "I told the guys when they took the floor it was the last time this team's ever going to play in this building together. You have to relish those moments … Our guys really responded in the second half. I'm really proud of them."
Wright scored 17 of his 24 points in the second half, seemingly providing an impact moment every time the Buffs needed it.
"I'm going to miss that kid," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "I just told him how much I loved him and how much I'm going to miss coaching him. I'm going to miss coaching all seven of those seniors. But McKinley Wright is going to go down as one of the greatest players in Colorado history. What he's done, from where he's come from and what he's overcome is really, really special."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Early on, it looked like the Buffs might have trouble hitting double digits in the first half, as they scored just two points in the first eight minutes while committing six turnovers.
But CU slowly found its rhythm to take a 31-30 lead at intermission as the Buffs' defense kept them in the game.
"The first half was really sloppy," Wright said. "That's me and Evan's leadership and us not bringing enough energy. We let them hang around for too long."
But the Buffs found their energy in the second half, and it was Wright providing the spark.
The senior point guard started an 8-0 run with a driving layup at the 16:22 mark to give Colorado a 41-39 lead and the Buffs never trailed again. Evan Battey followed with an offensive rebound and bucket before Wright scored again on a transition layup. A Maddox Daniels jumper then gave CU a 47-39 lead, forcing an ASU timeout.
Wright pushed his school-record number of games in double figures to 104.
"They really just turned it up in the second half," ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. "We kind of just folded defensively and McKinley Wright had his fingerprints all over that."
Colorado's defense also turned up the heat in that stretch, forcing eight straight ASU misses in the run. Martin, who entered the game averaging a league-leading 21.3 points per game, had scored at least 23 points in his last eight games but finished with just six.
"We made it tough on Remy Martin all night," Boyle said. "I thought Eli Parquet did a terrific job on him. A good team effort."
The Sun Devils did manage to close the gap to four, 54-50, on a Jalen House 3-pointer, but the Buffs responded again with a 10-1 run to take a 64-51 lead with just more than six minutes to play.
Jabari Walker started the decisive run with a dunk off a nice feed from Wright before Wright followed with a left-handed drive to the hoop. D'Shawn Schwartz then added a tip-in, Wright hit a teardrop from the lane and Battey finished with a layup.
Colorado then held the Sun Devils at bay down the stretch, never allowing ASU to come closer than 10 again.
"The game is pretty simple when you defend," Boyle said. "Hold'em to 30%, you rebound, you out-rebound by 15 in the second half, and you take care of the ball. We only had three turnovers in the second half rather than 10. The game kind of takes care of itself when you do those things."
TURNING POINT: Colorado broke away from a 39-39 tie early in the second half with an 8-0 run and never trailed again.
WHAT IT MEANS: Barring a USC-UCLA cancelation on Saturday, the Buffs will have the third seed in the conference tournament, their highest seeding in the Pac-12 era … Boyle now has eight of Colorado's 12 seasons with at least 20 wins … The win guarantees that CU cannot finish with double-digit losses — the first time since the 1968-69 Buffs went 21-7.
KEY STATISTICS: Colorado held ASU to 30 percent shooting in the second half (9-for-30) while also holding a 27-12 edge on the boards after intermission … CU committed just three turnovers in the second half after 10 in the first … The Buffs shot 17-for-18 from the free throw line.
QUOTEWORTHY: "There's four seasons in college basketball. You have the preseason, or non-conference portion of your schedule, and you have your conference portion. Now, we go into season number three, which is always the Pac-12 tournament, and then beyond that is season number four, which is the NCAA Tournament for this group. So, it's win or go home in both of these next two seasons. There's no tomorrows." — CU head coach Tad Boyle
NEXT UP: The Buffs will open play in the Pac-12 tournament with a quarterfinal game Thursday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. If they are the third seed, they will play the winner of Wednesday's No. 11 vs. No. 6 game at 9:30 p.m. (MT). If they are the fourth seed, they will play the No. 5 seed at 3:30 p.m.