What went right: The Buffs had more assists (a season-high 15) than turnovers (13) for the first time this season.
What went wrong: CU's perimeter defense again was suspect, as Drake went 8-for-19 on 3-pointers. That figure does not include a pair of CU fouls on 3-pointers that led to six Drake free throws.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright. One night after hitting the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, the freshman guard posted 21 points, nine assists, and five rebounds while shooting 9-for-12.
What's next: CU will play Mercer in the championship of the Paradise Jam on Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. MST.
LYNCHBURG, Va. — Lost in the celebration of Colorado's improbable comeback victory Friday night was an alarming statistic that won't typically lead to many wins.
Even after McKinley Wright's buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Quinnipiac, Buffaloes men's basketball coach Tad Boyle expressed frustration at an assists-to-turnover ratio that saw his team record just seven assists against 17 turnovers.
Despite an abrupt turnaround, Wright and his teammates made quick work in vastly improving that ratio against Drake Saturday night. Sharing the ball better than they have so far in the young season, the Buffs weathered several Drake comeback attempts in the second half to post an 86-81 victory in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam.
CU, which is 4-0 for the first time since the 2012-13 season, will play Mercer for the championship Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. MST.
Wright entered the game with just seven assists through three games but posted his seventh assist early in the second half against Drake. Despite fouling out with 2 minutes, 23 seconds remaining the freshman point guard enjoyed another stellar performance, finishing with 21 points, nine assists, and five rebounds with only one turnover in 29 minutes. Wright shot 9-for-12 from the floor.
The Buffs finished with more assists (a season-high 15) than turnovers (13) for the first time this season.
"We talked about it at our shootaround, we talked about it in our film sessions, and the first half we had nine assists on 14 baskets," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "We did a much better job sharing the ball tonight. Obviously when your point guard has nine assists and one turnover it's a good night for him.
"Our guys feed off McKinley. They feed off his energy, the feed off his toughness, they feed off of everything. He's the straw that stirs our drink. We knew that going in, but I think now people that are seeing Colorado play four games in understand that as well."
The Buffs led 39-31 at halftime and stretched the lead to 14 points immediately after the intermission on three straight field goals — first on a driving layup from Wright, then on easy layups by George King and Namon Wright that were set up by McKinley Wright assists.
Drake, though, used an 8-for-19 performance on 3-pointers and a 25-for-31 night at the free throw line to stay close. A 15-2 run by the Bulldogs cut CU's lead to one point with 7 minutes, 53 seconds remaining, but shortly afterward the Buffs got some breathing room on a McKinley Wright 3-point play.
Drake remained within two points with 6:24 left when CU put together a 7-2 run to pad a lead the Buffs were able to protect the rest of the way.
"Coach really stressed that we don't have a go-to player. The go-to man is the open man," McKinley Wright said. "Tonight we did a pretty good job of finding the open man and sharing the ball really well."
One blemish in the victory was an ankle injury suffered by sophomore forward Lucas Siewert late in the second half. Boyle wasn't certain of the extent of the injury but did say he didn't believe Siewert would be available for Sunday's championship showdown against a bigger Mercer squad. Redshirt freshman Dallas Walton, who hasn't played yet in the Paradise Jam, could take on a larger role Sunday night.
"Drake played a four-guard lineup and it was tough for us to play two bigs at the same time," Boyle said. "(Sunday) we're going to need more rebounding. Mercer is a great rebounding team and we're going to need Dallas Walton. We're going to need him to play and play well."
Colorado 86, Drake 81
At Paradise Jam, Liberty University
McGlynn 7-9 1-2 15, Rivers 2-5 1-4 6, McMurray 6-12, 4-4 19, Timmer 5-11 16-18 28, Arogundade 0-4 2-2 2, Woodward 2-8 0-0 6, Thomas 1-3 1-1 3, Schlatter 1-3 0--0 2, Kuenstling 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-56 25-31 81.
Miller-Stewart 5-6 1-1 11, N. Wright 5-9 9-11 19, Collier 2-6 1-2 5, King 5-11 3-4 14, M. Wright 9-12 2-3 21, Schwartz 0-2 0-0 0, Bey 1-2 0-0 2, Brown 2-3 2-4 7, Nikolic 0-1 0-0 0, Siewert 2-3 2-2 7. Totals 31-55 20-27 86.Drake 31 47 — 86
3-point field goals — Drake 8-19 (McGlynn 0-1, Rivers 1-2, McMurray 3-4, Timmer 2-5, Arogundade 0-1, Woodward 2-5, Thomas 0-1); Colorado 4-17 (N. Wright 0-2, Collier 0-3, King 1-4, M. Wright 1-1, Schwartz 0-2, Brown 1-2, Nikolic 0-1, Siewert 1-2). Rebounds — Drake 32 (McGlynn 10); Colorado 30 (King 7). Assists — Drake 13 (Rivers, Woodward 3); Colorado 15 (M. Wright 9). Total fouls — Drake 23, Colorado 22. Fouled out — M. Wright.