Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Ethan Miller / Getty Images North America
What went right: Not much, though an 18-for-22 mark at the free throw line was a bright spot
What went wrong: An ankle injury to point guard McKinley Wright was the Buffs’ biggest setback. But they also went 5-for-20 on 3-pointers and were outrebounded 36-27. CU’s 15 turnovers led to 19 points for Arizona.
Star of the game: George King. Playing what likely was his final game for CU, the senior went 6-for-12 from the field and 5-for-5 at the free throw line to post a team-leading 19 points.
What’s next: Barring an unexpected invite to the NIT, head coach Tad Boyle said his one-on-one postseason meetings with his players will begin Monday.
LAS VEGAS — First, McKinley Wright limped off the court. Then he was forced to stagger out of T-Mobile Arena, retreating in pain to the Colorado Buffaloes’ locker room.
And he took the Buffs’ hopes of a magical run through the Pac-12 Conference tournament with him.
CU’s trip to Vegas, and likely its season, ended on Thursday with an 83-67 loss to top-seeded Arizona in the Pac-12 quarterfinals, a game that changed dramatically once Wright was sidelined with a sprained ankle. Arizona quickly took over from there, eliminating the Buffs from the league tournament for the third consecutive year and the fifth time in the past six years.
The Buffs finish the season 17-15 and will cross their fingers for a second consecutive NIT berth, though with several teams within their own league ahead of them in the NIT’s pecking order, that destination appears unlikely.
“Today was not Colorado’s day, obviously,” said CU coach Tad Boyle, who coached with a walking boot covering the right calf he injured at the end of the Buffs’ first-round win against Arizona State on Wednesday. “Arizona had a lot to do with that. My hat’s off to them. They played well. They played better than us today. We weren’t good enough.
“We weren’t good enough rebounding the ball all game long, and I thought a lot of 50-50 balls that could have gone either way went to Arizona. Which they deserved, because they got them.”
Arizona led by only two at halftime and five when Wright limped to the bench. A pair of free throws from Namon Wright kept the Buffs within three, but as McKinley Wright attempted to walk off his injury the Wildcats abruptly took over, reeling off a 14-0 run to take control.
A late 8-1 run by the Buffs cut Arizona’s lead to 10 with just under three minutes remaining, but there wasn’t nearly enough time left for CU to pull off a comeback. Throughout the contest a familiar weakness once again thwarted the Buffs, as 15 CU turnovers led to an extra 19 points for the Wildcats.
Afterward Boyle said if it had been a tighter game down the stretch McKinley Wright might have been able to return to the action, but the Wildcats’ dominance made a comeback not worth the risk.
“McKinley is important to us, there’s no doubt about that,” Boyle said. “Our offense stalled at times today, like it has all year. We had some open looks that didn’t go in. But our defense and rebounding was not good enough to rely on today to keep us in the game. That 14-0 run is a great example of that. When McKinley goes out, it might take us a while to figure things out offensively, but we weren’t getting any stops. They went on that run, and it was kind of all she wrote.”
Playing in what likely was his final game for the Buffs, senior George King finished with a team-leading 19 points. Sophomore forward Lucas Siewert capped his late-season surge by posting 16 points. Wright recorded eight points and five assists in his abbreviated performance. One day after going 13-for-21 on 3-pointers against ASU, the Buffs were only 5-for-20 from long range against Arizona.
Boyle reiterated afterward that his program will not entertain a possible berth in a third-tier postseason tournament like the CBI, meaning unless an unlikely NIT invitation arrives, the Buffs will not participate in a postseason tournament for the first time in Boyle’s eight-season tenure.
“They didn’t frustrate us at all. We just missed shots that we normally make,” McKinley Wright said. “I wanted to give it a go, but the doctors didn’t think I should risk it, and coach didn’t want to risk it.”
No. 15 ARIZONA 83, COLORADO 67
Walton 3-6 0-0 7, King 6-12 5-5 19, Nikolic 2-5 0-1 4, M.Wright 3-5 2-2 8, Bey 2-4 3-6 7, Siewert 4-10 6-6 16, Collier 2-7 0-0 4, N.Wright 0-2 2-2 2, Schwartz 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-52 18-22 67.
Ayton 3-13 2-6 8, Ristic 6-11 6-8 18, Trier 5-9 10-10 22, Jackson-Cartwright 4-7 3-6 14, Alkins 3-8 4-6 12, Pinder 2-4 1-2 5, Akot 1-1 0-0 2, Randolph 0-0 0-0 0, Barcello 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 25-57 26-38 83.
Halftime — Arizona 35-33. 3-Point Goals_Colorado 5-20 (King 2-3, Siewert 2-6, Walton 1-2, Schwartz 0-1, N.Wright 0-1, M.Wright 0-1, Nikolic 0-2, Collier 0-4), Arizona 7-18 (Jackson-Cartwright 3-6, Alkins 2-4, Trier 2-5, Smith 0-3). Fouled out — Ayton, Collier, Nikolic. Rebounds — Colorado 25 (Bey 10), Arizona 34 (Ristic 12). Assists — Colorado 10 (M.Wright 5), Arizona 11 (Jackson-Cartwright 4). Total fouls — Colorado 28, Arizona 18. Technicals — Colorado coach Tad Boyle, Ayton.