McKinley Wright certainly remembers the good times from his freshman season, particularly when the Colorado men's basketball team knocked off two ranked foes, Arizona State and Arizona, over one early January weekend.
But he also remembers all the tough times, like the listless road losses at Oregon State and Washington State. From the perspective of the Buffaloes' second-year point guard, too often CU played to the level of the competition during the 2017-18 season. When the Buffs trailed Division II Colorado Mines at halftime of what became a 66-57 exhibition win for CU Saturday at the CU Events Center, Wright made sure to remind his teammates they no longer can afford to play to the level of the competition.
"First off, a lot of credit to Mines. They played very hard tonight," Wright said. "We talked about playing down to our competition. It's something we have to focus on and be better at. We did it a lot last year, and that was a big reason why we didn't play in the postseason. Coming into this year, we can't have that. We kind of stressed that before the game and at halftime. We've got to do better."
Wright played a key role in the Buffs' turnaround on Saturday, scoring 10 of his 14 points over the final 6 minutes, 6 seconds as CU pulled away late. Wright also recorded eight assists without a turnover in 29 minutes.
"Eight assists and no turnovers, we'll take that every night," CU head coach Tad Boyle said.
Boyle said he wanted his players to play, not think, during Saturday's exhibition. I that spirit, Boyle said his team didn't even attempt to execute any scripted plays.
"We didn't run one play tonight, and that was by design," Boyle said. "We wanted to run our half-court offense and our half-court defense, and we ran one or two traps on defense the whole night. You can scout plays. You can take plays away from people. If you know how to play, it's hard for team to guard you. We're trying to figure that out, and we're in the infancy stages of that."
Boyle chose Wright, D'Shawn Schwartz, Shane Gatling, Tyler Bey and Evan Battey for the starting lineup. While CU's leader wouldn't commit to using the same lineup for the regular season opener on Nov. 13 against Drake, it sounded as if that quintet has the inside track.
"I've seen the way Evan has practiced. He didn't play exceptionally well tonight offensively, but I've seen how he's practiced," Boyle said. "I feel like Evan Battey and Tyler Bey and Lucas Siewert, I feel like we have three starters right there. We're using those as kind of a three-man rotation in the post.
"And then on the perimeter, McKinley and D'Shawn have solidified themselves as starters, I think. That's fluid as the year goes. Guys will play themselves into the lineup or out of the lineup depending on how they practice and how they play in the games."
Junior guard Deleon Brown was the only scholarship player who did not play on Saturday. Boyle described it as a coach's decision...Two local products came off the bench late for Mines. Junior forward Luke Golter, a Holy Family graduate, played five minutes and grabbed one rebound. Freshman guard Trent Dykema from Silver Creek played one minute.