What went right: Very little beyond the individual exploits of freshman guard McKinley Wright, who provided the bulk of CU's highlights by leading rallies in both halves.
What went wrong: The Buffs were outrebounded 46-32 and also struggled offensively, going 8-for-25 on 3-pointers and 7-for-13 at the free throw line.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright. The freshman guard finishing with team-leading totals of 19 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.
What's next: The Buffs return home to host New Mexico Wednesday night (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
FORT COLLINS — Perhaps in time getting a taste of a hostile arena for the first time this season will prove beneficial for a young Colorado basketball team.
That's the silver lining approach, though. And as always, the big picture did little to soothe the sting of a frustrating setback for the Buffaloes against their most heated rival.
Playing without senior forward Tory Miller-Stewart, who could be lost for the season due to a broken foot, the Buffs were dominated on the glass Saturday at Moby Arena, with the host Colorado State Rams taking advantage of a short-handed CU team inside to hand the Buffs their first loss in a 72-63 decision.
It was the first time since 2012 the home team came out with a victory in the annual rivalry battle.
CU was outrebounded 46-32 and, beyond a few short but explosive bursts from freshman guard McKinley Wright, the Buffs struggled to maintain efficient offensive possessions. CSU had not posted more than five blocked shots in any game this year but recorded nine against the Buffs.
"I thought the two keys to this game were getting outrebounded on the backboard and CSU, who's not a shot-blocking team, has nine blocked shots," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "That tells me we weren't making very good decisions when we got the ball in the lane and we were throwing stuff up there that's getting blocked. The definition of a bad shot is one that gets blocked. So that was nine bad shots that we had and we had some others that were questionable."
The Rams looked as if they might run the Buffs out of the gym on several occasions, yet in both halves Wright was able to pull CU back into the game in a hurry.
In the first half, CSU led by eight before a pair of 3-pointers from Wright, sandwiched around an assist to George King for a 3-point play, pulled the Buffs within a point.
CSU held a three-point halftime lead and again led by only a point when CU senior Dom Collier opened the second half with a driving layup. From there the Rams once more took control, reeling off an 18-5 run that gave the hosts a 14-point advantage with just under 12 minutes remaining.
CSU extended its lead to 17 points when Wright again went to work, scoring 11 consecutive points in a span of 1:23 to single-handedly rally CU to within six points with 5:24 to go. The Buffs got to within five points on King 3-pointer with 2:40 left and within four on a Collier free throw with 58.6 seconds left, but the Rams were able to knock down enough free throws down the stretch to keep CU at bay.
"They baited us into taking some shots we shouldn't have taken," Wright said. "They go into a lot of ball screens daring you to shoot it and we bit into some of it. I personally did too and took some bad ones. It's something I'm going to learn from. I'm going to be better. This team is going to be better."
Wright recorded 19 points, eight rebounds, and four assists to lead the Buffs. Wright finished 7-for-15 overall and 4-for-8 on 3-pointers, but the rest of CU's rotation went just 4-for-17 from the arc. Once again the Buffs' perimeter defense proved suspect, as a CSU squad that entered the game with a .281 3-point percentage managed to go 5-for-11 in the first half.
The 3-point woes combined with CSU's dominance on the glass proved far too much for the Buffs to overcome.
"We just weren't patient on offense," said Collier, who finished with a season-high 10 points. "We knew their defensive style. They wanted to dare us to shoot threes and we kind of got caught up in the trap in the first half. In the second half we started feeding off McKinley and started going to the basket more. But we kind of bit ourselves with that."
COLORADO ST. 72, COLORADO 63
Walton 3-3 0-0 6, King 3-13 2-3 9, N.Wright 2-9 1-2 5, Collier 4-10 1-3 10, M.Wright 7-15 1-3 19, Siewert 0-1 0-0 0, Nikolic 2-2 0-0 5, Brown 1-4 0-0 3, Schwartz 0-1 0-0 0, Bey 2-3 2-2 6. Totals 24-61 7-13 63.
COLORADO ST. (4-4)
James 3-10 2-2 8, Bob 4-9 3-7 11, Carvacho 2-6 4-6 8, Nixon 5-14 2-2 16, Paige 5-9 5-5 16, Bonner 1-1 2-2 5, Jenkins 2-5 3-5 8. Totals 22-54 21-29 72.
Halftime — Colorado St. 38-35. 3-point goals — Colorado 8-25 (M.Wright 4-8, Nikolic 1-1, Brown 1-3, Collier 1-4, King 1-5, Bey 0-1, Siewert 0-1, N.Wright 0-2), Colorado St. 7-18 (Nixon 4-10, Bonner 1-1, Jenkins 1-2, Paige 1-3, Bob 0-2). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Colorado 28 (M.Wright 8), Colorado St. 45 (James 10). Assists — Colorado 11 (N.Wright, M.Wright 4), Colorado St. 8 (James, Paige 3). Total fouls — Colorado 23, Colorado St. 15. A — 5,217 (8,745).