What went right: The Buffs shot .517 from the field (30-for-58) and outrebounded the Cougars 39-29.
What went wrong: While CU otherwise was solid defensively, Washington State stayed in the game by going 15-for-34 on 3-pointers.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright. The freshman point guard shook off a recent scoring slump to score a team-leading 17 points. Wright scored seven of those points during a decisive 12-0 run late in the second half and also finished with five assists.
What's next: The Buffs finish the homestand against Washington on Saturday (4 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
Washington State and the Colorado men's basketball team have locked horns in some memorable nail-biters over the past few seasons.
This wasn't quite one of them, even if it did get a little too close for comfort at one point for the Buffaloes.
Backing up their strong showing against some of the Pac-12 Conference's elite programs the past two weekends, the Buffs jumped ahead early Thursday night and survived a second-half comeback attempt from the visiting Cougars to post an 82-73 victory at the Coors Events Center.
It was the fourth win in five games for the Buffs, who improved to 12-7 overall and 4-3 in the conference heading into a Saturday afternoon battle against Washington (4 p.m., Pac-12 Network). The Buffs also improved to 7-0 all-time at home against the Cougars and have won six of their past seven games overall against WSU.
"That was a good win. We made it interesting in the second half obviously," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "Hopefully we can learn from that lapse we had both defensively and offensively. Overall, a quality win. I thought our aggressiveness offensively in the first half was terrific."
CU put together one of its finest shooting performances of the season and, much like the Buffs did during last week's win at UCLA, they answered WSU's comeback challenge by reversing the momentum down the stretch.
CU shot a torrid .593 during the first half to take a 42-27 lead at the break. The Buffs extended their lead to 26 points with 15 minutes, 7 seconds remaining before shifting into cruise control. The Cougars took advantage and quickly put together an 18-2 run, scoring the final 12 points in a row, to cut the Buffs' lead to five points with 7:44 left.
The Buffs, though, immediately answered with 12 consecutive points to reassert control. Freshman guard McKinley Wright scored seven of his team-leading 17 points during that run. Wright, who had scored only 11 points while going 3-for-17 in the previous two games, went 6-for-10 from the field and 5-for-6 on free throws while also tallying five assists.
"This team has a lot of fight," CU senior Dominique Collier said. "The young guys, they really came in I really noticed that when they started practicing they just had a lot of fight."
It was another balanced scoring effort for the Buffs, with five players scoring at least 11 points. Senior George King finished just one rebound shy of his third consecutive double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. Junior Namon Wright posted the first double-double of his Buffs career with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Collier came off the bench to record 13 points and a season-high five rebounds in 22 minutes.
The Buffs finished .517 from the field, the sixth time this season they have shot at least 50 percent. For the second consecutive game the Buffs showed signs of quelling the penchant for turnovers that has plagued them for much of the season, finishing with just 10 against the Cougars. Four of those occurred in quick succession during the Cougars' second-half comeback.
"The first half I was shooters and the second half the opportunities were there because they hugging on my shooters after knocking down shots," McKinley Wright said. "I just tried to stay aggressive in the second half, especially when they made their run. Runs are going to happen. We withstood it, and I was aggressive when the time was there."
Colorado 82, Washington St. 73
WASHINGTON ST. (9-9, 1-5)
Bernstine 4-11 0-0 8, Franks 3-10 1-2 8, Flynn 2-8 0-0 5, Daniels 6-10 0-0 18, Hinson 4-9 2-2 11, Pollard 1-2 1-1 3, Acquaah 1-3 0-0 3, Skaggs 6-13 0-0 17. Totals 27-66 4-5 73.
COLORADO (12-7, 4-3)
Walton 1-2 1-1 3, King 6-12 0-1 16, N.Wright 7-14 0-0 16, M.Wright 6-9 5-6 17, Bey 2-2 0-0 4, Siewert 4-6 2-4 11, Brown 0-2 0-0 0, Collier 4-5 3-4 13, Nikolic 0-2 0-0 0, Schwartz 0-2 2-2 2. Totals 30-56 13-18 82.
Halftime — Colorado 42-27. 3-point goals — Washington St. 15-34 (Daniels 6-9, Skaggs 5-11, Acquaah 1-1, Hinson 1-3, Flynn 1-5, Franks 1-5), Colorado 9-25 (King 4-9, Collier 2-3, N.Wright 2-6, Siewert 1-2, Schwartz 0-1, M.Wright 0-2, Nikolic 0-2). Fouled out — Franks. Rebounds — Washington St. 22 (Franks 8), Colorado 35 (N.Wright 10). Assists — Washington St. 18 (Bernstine 8), Colorado 15 (M.Wright 5). Total fouls — Washington St. 17, Colorado 12.