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Huge week for CU Buffs’ McKinley Wright IV marred by finish against Oregon State

Like entire squad, Buffs’ point guard regrouping for Utah

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Things were humming along beautifully.

With a little more than eight minutes remaining against Oregon State, Colorado point guard McKinley Wright IV drove down the lane for a layup that gave the Buffaloes a 10-point lead.

Moments later, 6-foot-7 Tyler Bey made a highlight-reel blocked shot on a dunk attempt by OSU 7-footer Kylor Kelley, leading to foul shots for Wright at the other end. Wright made 1 of 2 with 7 minutes, 57 seconds remaining, giving the Buffs an 11-point lead. On the heels of a win against fourth-ranked Oregon, the CU Events Center was rocking.

And then, disaster.

A huge week by Wright made him a worthy selection for the latest Pac-12 Player of the Week, but the second weekly honor of his career failed to erase the sting of Sunday’s disappointment that saw Oregon State reel off a game-closing 24-5 run to stun the Buffs at home.

Wright was right in the middle of that collapse, committing three of his four turnovers down the stretch. Like his teammates, it’s a finish Wright is trying to move past in as CU uses a longer work week to prepare for Sunday’s visit from Utah (4 p.m., ESPNU).

Colorado's McKinley Wright IV gets around ...
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV gets around Oregon State’s Alfred Hollins during the game in Boulder on Sunday.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

“I know McKinley Wright and what he’s about and what he’s made of. When he struggles, some of his teammates need to pick up. Just like when they struggle, he picks up,” said Boyle, whose team had a planned off-day Thursday before resuming practice on Friday.

“It’s got to be a two-way street. I don’t put it all on McKinley. I’m not going to make excuses for him and say he played well, because he didn’t. He played well for the first 33 minutes. This program would not be in the position it’s in without McKinley Wright, I can promise you that.”

Just 5:05 into the second half, Wright notched his 10th assist of the game against Oregon State, and at that point he had only one turnover, which he committed early in the second half. Wright became just the fourth CU player to post at least six 10-assist games — joining a club that includes Jose Winston, Mike Reid, and Jay Humphries — but that would be Wright’s final assist of the afternoon.

In the final 7:15, Wright lost the ball in the lane and also airmailed a cross-court pass to Daylen Kountz near midcourt while trying to break the OSU press. He also attempted an ill-advised lob to Bey while Oregon State’s Zach Reichle essentially played free safety at the back of the Beavers’ zone.

For a club that has listened to Boyle repeatedly preach the idea of making the simple play, the lob was an attempt at flair when simply running the offense would have sufficed.

“That wasn’t the simple play, obviously,” Wright said. “The lob is there sometimes with me and Tyler but I made the wrong read. Reichle was guarding Evan on the post-up and he cheated over and got a (steal). Obviously it wasn’t the simple play, but I’ve learned from it.”

The Buffs’ heightened expectations team-wise also bring heightened expectations individually. A recent run in which Wright has posted 28 assists against seven turnovers over the past three games has improved his season assist-to-turnover rate to 1.70, up from 1.29 going into the Iona game less than two weeks ago. Still, Wright would be the first CU player to admit the play down the stretch against OSU was unacceptable.

“McKinley has been so good to this basketball program. I don’t put it all on him,” Boyle said. “He certainly did not play well down the stretch. He knows that. Everybody that was here knows that. And what’s disappointing is that he had played so well for the first 33 minutes. And our offense has gotten better. No doubt. We shot 49 percent from the field. We melted down there the last seven minutes and I wasn’t able to help them, and they weren’t able to help themselves. I think it’s an aberration.”