CU basketball outlasts Arizona State for season-opening win in China

McKinley Wright powers Buffs down the stretch

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

In a battle of premier point guards, it was McKinley Wright who had the last laugh.

Wright and the Colorado Buffaloes answered Arizona State’s second-half challenge they way a veteran team is expected to, outlasting the Sun Devils down the stretch to post an 81-71 season-opening win in the Pac-12 Conference’s annual game in Shanghai, China.

“It was a hard-fought victory, that’s for sure. Give Arizona State credit. They came out and played with great energy, especially in the second half,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “They made a tremendous run on us, and our guys bowed their backs and didn’t let it overcome us. It was a good win against a quality team at this time of year. You don’t always open up with a team like this, especially so far away from home.

“It was a great week. Winning makes this trip all worthwhile. I’m really proud of our guys.”

Wright led the Buffs past Arizona State’s second-half run, scoring eight of his team-high 17 points in the final 10 minutes after the Sun Devils had erased a 17-point CU lead to tie the game at 59-59.

The Sun Devils got back in the game with a 15-3 run, eventually pulling into that 59-59 tie on a layup by freshman Jalen Graham with 10 minutes, 15 second remaining. Wright scored the next four points to lead an 8-3 CU burst that gave the Buffs the lead for good.

CU put together a sharp first half, shooting .441 overall and outrebounding ASU 27-16 while building a 42-29 lead at the break. The Buffs added the first two baskets of the second half, a putback bucket from Evan Battey and a layup from D’Shwan Schwartz, to push the lead to 17 points before ASU’s rally.

ASU point guard Remy Martin might have won the statistical battle against Wright, finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists, but Wright had much more help from his friends. Schwartz helped stake the Buffs to the early lead by hitting his first three 3-pointers while scoring 13 of his 15 points in the first half. Tyler Bey went 0-for-4 on 3-pointers and didn’t play the final 9:06 of the first half after picking up his second foul, but he still posted a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Battey nearly recorded a double-double as well, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds.

Wright also recorded seven rebounds and five assists. Bey’s double-double was the 20th of his career, and he also matched a career-high with three steals. CU improved to 8-2 in season openers under Boyle, though this was the first of those wins away from home.

Arizona State played without two of its more experienced rotation players in sophomore forward Taeshon Cherry and junior forward Romello White, who were suspended for a violation of team rules.

Colorado 81, Arizona State 71

Arizona State (0-1)

Martin 9-20 3-5 23, Edwards 6-11 4-5 20, Lawrence 4-9 1-2 10, Verge 2-11 0-0 4, Graham 3-4 0-0 6, Valtonen 0-1 1-2 1, House 1-9 4-4 7, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-65 13-18 71.

Colorado (1-0)

Bey 4-11 7-10 15, Kountz 1-7 3-4 5, Schwartz 6-12 0-0 15, Battey 4-5 3-6 11, Wright 8-16 1-1 17, Gatling 0-1 0-2 0, Daniels 3-4 0-0 8, Siewert 4-9 0-0 9, Parquet 0-0 0-0 0, Strating 0-0 1-2 1, Walton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-65 15-25 81.

Halftime — Colorado 42, Arizona State 29. 3-point goals — Arizona State 8-20 (Martin 2-5, Edwards 4-6, Lawrence 1-2, Verge 0-4, House 1-3); Colorado 6-16 (Bey 0-4, Kountz 0-1, Schwartz 3-5, Wright 0-1, Daniels 2-3, Siewert 1-2). Rebounds — Arizona State 35 (Martin 9); Colorado 48 (Bey 12). Assists — Arizona State 12 (Martin 8); Colorado 12 (Wright 5). Total fouls — Arizona State 24, Colorado 14.