MANHATTAN, Kan. — It was not at all a happy Thanksgiving for the Colorado men’s basketball team. At least the Buffaloes were able to take out their sudden frustrations on Kansas State.
The Buffs capped their two-game run at the Little Apple Classic with a 76-58 win against the host Wildcats on Friday night, using a stirring first-half rally and a brilliant all-around performance by senior point guard McKinley Wright to storm past Kansas State.
The big story, however, occurred off the court.
Head coach Tad Boyle confirmed that senior wing D’Shawn Schwartz indeed has tested positive for COVID-19, as CU’s third-leading scorer the past two seasons and the team’s top 3-point shooter was sent home Wednesday prior to the opening night win against South Dakota. CU’s depth took a bigger hit on Thanksgiving, as redshirt freshman guard Keeshawn Barthelemy and true freshman wing Tristan da Silva were relegated to quarantine via contact tracing from Schwartz’s positive test.
Per Pac-12 Conference protocols, all three players will be quarantined for at least 14 days, leaving all three on the sidelines for next week’s Pac-12 Conference games at Arizona and at home against Washington State, as well as the Dec. 8 home date against Colorado State. As of Friday, Barthelemy and da Silva have tested negative.
For the first 11 minutes Friday night, the Buffs played as miserably as they must have felt, with Kansas State using a hot start to jump to a 22-9 lead. Yet head coach Tad Boyle was quick to deflect the idea the team’s unsettling coronavirus news led to the slow start.
“Zero percent,” Boyle responded when asked what role the Buffs’ emotions might have played early. “It absolutely had nothing to do with it. On Wednesday we had one guy to play for, and that was D’Shawn. Tonight we had three guys to play for. It had nothing to do with that and everything to do with K-State being the aggressor and tougher. We didn’t handle their pressure very well. Ten turnovers in the first half, but one in the second half that was on me. A tale of two halves in terms of our offensive execution and handling their pressure.”
It was a very unnecessary flagrant foul against Kansas State’s Davion Bradford, who shoved Wright’s head while the players were tangled deep in the backcourt, that re-energized the Buffs and changed the entire complexion of the game.
CU turned the play into a six-point possession as freshman Jabari Walker, who was fouled in the run of play before the officials reviewed the flagrant, knocked down two free throws before Wright drained his two free throws from the flagrant. On the ensuing possession, Wright converted a driving layup, and CU was on its way to a 14-0 run. Half of those points were scored by Wright.
“That got us going a lot,” Wright said. “I got my head knocked to the ground and that ain’t ever happened to me before.”
Kansas State still clung to a 31-30 lead at halftime, but the Buffs scored the first five points of the second half and never trailed the rest of the way, using runs of 9-2 and 11-2 to put the Wildcats away.
After that first-half flagrant foul against Kansas State, the shorthanded Buffs outscored the host Wildcats 67-36 the rest of the way. Wright played the role of senior leader to perfection after his squad was sluggish early, finishing with 24 points on a 10-for-16 night from the floor. Wright also posted five assists and five rebounds with only two turnovers in 39 minutes. Wright sat just one minute during the first half and played the entire second half.
“I said it Wednesday and I’ll say it tonight — (Wright) is an All-American and he’s playing like it,” Boyle said. “I don’t care what anybody says.”
What went right: The Buffs outscored Kansas State 67-36 the rest of the way after trailing early, a run that started when Kansas State’s Davion Bradford was called for a flagrant foul on the Buffs’ McKinley Wright when CU trailed by 13.
What went wrong: CU went just 6-for-21 on 3-pointers and committed 10 turnovers in the first half, though they committed just one turnover after halftime.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright IV. CU’s senior floor general went 10-for-16 and finished with 24 points, five rebounds, five assists, and only two turnovers in 39 minutes.
What’s next: The shorthanded Buffs open Pac-12 Conference play at Arizona on Wednesday (6 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks).
Colorado 76, Kansas State 58
Battey 1-5 3-4 5, Walton 2-3 3-4 7, Parquet 3-5 1-1 9, Wright 10-16 2-2 24, Daniels 3-10 3-3 10, Horne 3-5 2-2 9, Walker 3-5 3-3 9, O’Brien 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 26-53 18-21 76.
KANSAS ST. (0-2)
Ezeagu 4-5 0-3 8, A.Gordon 3-5 0-0 8, D.Gordon 2-7 0-0 4, McGuirl 3-11 0-0 8, Pack 4-8 0-0 12, Miguel 1-3 3-4 6, Murphy 1-2 3-4 5, Williams 2-4 0-0 5, Bradford 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 21-47 6-11 58.
Halftime — Kansas St. 31-30. 3-Point Goals — Colorado 6-21 (Parquet 2-3, Wright 2-5, Horne 1-2, Daniels 1-7, Battey 0-1, O’Brien 0-1, Walton 0-1), Kansas St. 10-26 (Pack 4-6, A.Gordon 2-4, McGuirl 2-6, Williams 1-2, Miguel 1-3, Murphy 0-1, D.Gordon 0-4). Rebounds — Colorado 29 (Horne 6), Kansas St. 23 (D.Gordon 7). Assists — Colorado 13 (Wright 5), Kansas St. 14 (McGuirl 5). Total Fouls — Colorado 13, Kansas St. 21.