What went right: Most of what the Buffs did right occurred in the final three minutes. But they did outrebound Quinnipiac 42-37, and CU shot 22-for-39 (.564) on two-pointers.
What went wrong: For the first time this year the Buffs didn't guard the perimeter well, as Quinnipiac finished 10-for-32 on 3-pointers.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright. The freshman guard knocked down the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, capping a night in which he went 8-for-12 with 21 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
What's next: The Buffs will play in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. MST.
LYNCHBURG, Va. — If all goes according to plan for McKinley Wright and the talented freshman class of the Colorado men's basketball team, there will be far more memorable wins in their future than a one-point decision against Quinnipiac.
Still, in terms of pure thrills, this one will be difficult to top.
The Buffaloes put together a historic comeback at the Vines Center Friday night in the first round of the Paradise Jam, rallying from a 13-point deficit with under four minutes remaining to stun Quinnipiac with a 70-69 victory. Wright, playing just his third college game, knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to spark the celebration.
It was biggest comeback in the final five minutes of a game in the history of the CU program, topping a 12-point rally the Buffs put together in 1981 against Wyoming. CU will play in the second semifinal on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. MST against Drake, which defeated Wake Forest in the final game Friday.
"I told the Quinnipiac coaches in the handshake line, and their players, that they deserved to win that game more than we did. And I really believe that," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "But we're not going to give it back. I am proud of our team for their fight and their resiliency, and I've said that from day one with this team. I love our toughness and spirit. There's not a lot of groups that could've come back like we did tonight."
The comeback began inauspiciously when senior Dom Collier hit a pair of free throws with 3 minutes, 59 seconds remaining, but Quinnipiac still led 66-58 with 1:33 remaining.
A combination of clutch plays at both ends of the floor, along with poor free throw shooting from the Bobcats, slowly turned an unsightly defeat into one of CU's most exciting victories in years. Consecutive baskets by CU's Namon Wright — including a steal and highlight-reel, open-court dunk — got the Buffs within four with a minute to go.
Two Quinnipiac free throws followed by another putback basket from Namon Wright kept CU within four with 24.8 seconds left. McKinley Wright recorded a steal and connected on a 3-pointer to get the Buffs within one with 14.4 left, but Quinnipiac still had ample opportunities to ice the game at the free throw line.
The Bobcats' Rich Kelly made one free throw with nine seconds to go, and when he missed the second Quinnipiac was able to get the offensive rebound. The Bobcats' Alain Chigha inexplicably missed both free throws with seven seconds left, giving McKinley Wright an opportunity to go coast-to-coast and launch his winning 3-pointer.
As if the drama wasn't turned up enough, McKinley Wright's shot initially deflected straight up off the front of the rim before dropping through the net as the buzzer sounded.
"We just came together at every timeout — the guys on the bench, the guys in the game — we all came together and said we're not losing this game," McKinley Wright said. "We had to lock in and get stops, and we did that."
The comeback erased what had been a frustrating performance for the Buffs, who built an eight-point lead with under four minutes remaining in the first half before Quinnipiac stormed back. The Buffs outrebounded Quinnipiac 42-37 and, despite the 3-point struggles, finished with a reasonable field goal percentage of .441. But CU recorded only seven assists against 17 turnovers, a figure that was a sore spot for Boyle afterward.
McKinley Wright was the main reason behind CU's strong start as well, as he made 6 of 7 shots in the first half before finishing 8-for-12 with 21 points, five rebounds, and two steals. Namon Wright, who came off the bench for the first time this season, scored all 16 of his points after halftime.
"The thing about (McKinley) is that he can play through mistakes," Boyle said. "He's got that will, that gumption, that intestinal fortitude that you have to have. He's not our best 3-point shooter. But there's nobody I'd rather have take that last shot than him. I believe in him 100 percent."
Colorado 70, Quinnipiac 69
At Paradise Jam, Liberty University
Daniels 4-10 4-6 12, Young 7-13 8-9 26, Chigha 1-3 0-2 2, Washington 4-11 4-6 16, Kelly 2-9 3-4 8, Robinson 1-8 0-0 3, Rigoni 0-3 0-0 0, Bundu 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 20-59 19-27 69.
Miller-Stewart 1-4 3-4 5, Siewert 3-7 0-0 7, Collier 0-4 2-2 2, King 4-8 1-1 9, M. Wright 8-12 2-3 21, Schwartz 2-3 0-0 4, Bey 2-3 2-2 6, Brown 0-4 0-0 0, Nikolic 0-1 0-0 0, N. Wright 6-13 4-6 16. Totals 26-59 14-18 70.Quinnipiac 29 40 — 69
3-point field goals — Quinnipiac 10-32 (Young 4-8, Chigha 0-1, Washington 4-8, Kelly 1-6, Robinson 1-8, Rigoni 0-1); Colorado 4-20 (Siewert 1-4, Collier 0-3, King 0-2, M. Wright 3-5, Brown 0-2, Nikolic 0-1, N. Wright 0-3). Rebounds — Quinnipiac 37 (Young 12); Colorado 42 (Miller-Stewart 9). Assists — Quinnipiac 12 (Young, Kelly 5); Colorado 7 (Siewert 3). Total fouls — Quinnipiac 18, Colorado 24.