Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
What went right: The Buffs shot .565 in the second half (13-for-23) and also outrebounded Cal 17-15 after halftime.
What went wrong: CU committed 13 turnovers in the first half, leading to 12 points for Cal. The Buffs added six more turnovers after halftime.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright. The freshman guard turned in another superb all-around performance, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Wright went 11-for-14 at the free throw line, including a 6-for-6 mark in the final 50 seconds.
What’s next: The Buffs finish a three-game homestand with a Sunday afternoon battle against Stanford (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
It was a win. And that fact alone was just about the only positive Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle could point to following his team’s performance Wednesday night against Cal.
The Buffaloes went into the contest having seemingly overcome a penchant for turnovers in recent weeks while focusing their game-planning on Cal’s ability to grab offensive rebounds. Despite failing on both fronts the Buffs still were able to get the job done while playing less than their best, surviving for a 68-64 win in a Pac-12 Conference battle at the Coors Events Center.
CU committed 13 turnovers in the first half, miscues that led to a dozen points for the Golden Bears, and the Buffs also allowed Cal to grab 18 offensive rebounds, which led to an extra 18 points for the Bears.
“I can’t remember a time in my coaching career when I’ve been this disappointed after a win in terms of our performance and the way we approached this game,” Boyle said. “Especially after we really did a great job against Utah in terms of our effort, our energy, our toughness. And tonight, we turn the ball over 19 times and we give them 18 offensive rebounds. Thank God we won. And we won for one reason, and that’s No. 25 for the Buffs. Thank God we had him.”
Boyle, of course, referred to freshman point guard McKinley Wright, who finished with 17 points and was the only CU player to score in double figures. Wright also recorded six rebounds and five assists while going 6-for-6 at the free throw line in the game’s final 50 seconds to keep Cal at bay.
The Buffs trailed by seven points early before Wright helped spark a 10-2 run, getting a steal that led to a pair of free throws before capping the run by assisting on a Deleon Brown 3-point play.
The game was tied 28-28 at the break and Cal scored the first three points of the second half before CU reeled off a 10-1 run, getting 3-pointers from Lucas Siewert, George King, and Dom Collier during the burst. Cal remained within a point with about 4:40 remaining, but an 8-2 run by CU gave the Buffs breathing room down the stretch.
CU went 8-for-9 on free throws in the final 50 seconds, with most of that damage coming from Wright.
“I just called the guys together (at halftime) and told them us younger guys are playing for the seniors. We’re doing our best to try and get them to the tournament,” Wright said. “We know if we’d have lost this game tonight there would have been a slim chance at that. This was a huge game for us.”
The victory was the second in a row for the Buffs, who complete a three-game homestand on Sunday afternoon against Stanford. Despite shooting .565 after halftime (13-for-23) and closing Cal’s 21-15 rebounding advantage at halftime to 36-34 at the game’s end, Boyle scuttled a planned day off on Thursday in order to address the myriad issues that arose during Wednesday’s critical yet ugly win.
“We had a stretch at the end of the first half where McKinley and Del kind of heated things up defensively thank goodness and we got rolling a little bit,” Boyle said. “And we come out in the first part of the second half it wasn’t there. I’m disgusted with our performance.”
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COLORADO 68, CALIFORNIA 64
CALIFORNIA (8-17, 2-10)
Lee 4-8 2-4 10, Sueing 1-15 3-5 6, Okoroh 5-7 2-3 12, McNeill 3-11 4-4 12, Harris-Dyson 4-6 1-2 9, Welle 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 2-2 2-2 6, Hamilton 0-2 1-2 1, Coleman 3-9 0-0 8. Totals 22-60 15-22 64.
COLORADO (14-10, 6-6)
Walton 4-6 0-0 8, Nikolic 1-3 2-3 4, G.King 2-4 2-5 7, M.Wright 3-7 11-14 17, Bey 3-4 0-0 6, Siewert 2-4 1-2 6, Collier 3-7 0-1 8, Brown 1-3 2-3 4, Schwartz 3-6 1-1 8. Totals 22-44 19-29 68.
Halftime — 28-28. 3-point goals — California 5-16 (Coleman 2-4, McNeill 2-6, Sueing 1-5, Harris-Dyson 0-1), Colorado 5-16 (Collier 2-5, Siewert 1-1, G.King 1-2, Schwartz 1-3, M.Wright 0-1, Nikolic 0-2, Brown 0-2). Fouled out — Harris-Dyson. Rebounds — California 32 (Lee 12), Colorado 29 (Walton 7). Assists — California 3 (McNeill 2), Colorado 12 (M.Wright 5). Total fouls — California 24, Colorado 19. Technicals — Coleman.