Hot start pushes CU Buffs men’s basketball past Omaha

Buffs never threatened in solid all-around showing

  • BOULDER, CO - December 16, 2020: Colorado's Dallas Walton battles with Omaha's Matt Pile. The Colorado Buffaloes played the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in Boulder on December 16, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 16, 2020: Colorado's Jeriah Horne and Omaha's Marlin Ruffin, chase down a loose ball. The Colorado Buffaloes played the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in Boulder on December 16, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 16, 2020: Colorado's Jabari Walker drives on Omaha's Devin Hayes.The Colorado Buffaloes played the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in Boulder on December 16, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Colorado senior wing D'Shawn Schwartz has averaged 11.3 points and 8.5 rebounds over the past four games. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 16, 2020:Colorado's McKinley Wright IV looks for room on Omaha's Matt Pile. The Colorado Buffaloes played the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in Boulder on December 16, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Coach Tad Boyle's club is leading the nation in free throw percentage going in to the Buffs' game against Grand Canyon. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 16, 2020: Colorado head coach, Tad Boyle, during the Nebraska-Omaha game. The Colorado Buffaloes played the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in Boulder on December 16, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 16, 2020: Colorado's D'Shawn Schwartz drives to the basket on Omaha's Wanjang Tut. The Colorado Buffaloes played the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in Boulder on December 16, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Led by more efficient play from point guard McKinley Wright IV, Colorado has dramatically reduced its turnover rate so far this season. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

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If the Colorado Buffaloes continue to play this well at home when they return to the CU Events Center in January for Pac-12 Conference play, it will be a memorable season indeed.

The Buffs quickly dispatched their second overmatched opponent in less than 48 hours on Wednesday afternoon, burying Omaha with a hot start before cruising the rest of the way to a 91-49 victory.

Two days after topping Northern Colorado by 36 points, the Buffs took control with an early 10-0 run and were never threatened by the Mavericks. CU added a 14-0 run later in the first half and also scored 11 consecutive points early in the second half.

“I told the team in the locker room, for the rest of the season the price of poker is going up from the standpoint of our opponents are going to be more formidable in terms of their size and strength and athleticism,” said CU head coach Tad Boyle, offering a fitting metaphor for a team whose next two games are in Las Vegas. “We’ve got to be ready for that. It starts Sunday in Vegas. Actually, Friday in practice.”

CU dominated in all facets, shooting an even 50 percent from the field (31-for-62) while limiting Omaha to a .311 mark.

Playing at full strength this week for the first time this season, the Buffs took advantage of a pair of overmatched opponents at home to start playing the way they envisioned at the outset of the year. In the wins against UNC and Omaha, the Buffs shot a combined .516 from the field (63-for-122) while shooting .436 on 3-pointers. Defensively, CU was equally efficient, holding the Bears and Omaha to a combined .301 mark (34-for-113) overall and a .314 mark (11-for-34) on 3-pointers.

CU forced 36 turnovers in the two wins while posting 34 assists against 23 turnovers. The Buffs committed just nine turnovers against Omaha.

“This was a good week for us. We kind of needed it,” Boyle said. “These games are behind us now. We don’t have any (gimmies) left. We have 21 Pac-12 schools, and we’ve got Grand Canyon. Hopefully we can get them all in and stay healthy. But it is good to have everybody on deck like we did the last two games.”

Four players scored in double figures in a balanced CU offense, led by another standout all-around performance from senior point guard McKinley Wright IV. Wright went 6-for-8 from the field and finished with 17 points, eight assists, and five rebounds.

For the first time in his career, 7-footer Dallas Walton reached double-figure points in consecutive games, going 4-for-5 overall and 2-for-2 on 3-pointers while posting 14 points. CU freshman Jabari Walker came off the bench to contribute 15 points and nine rebounds.

“It feels great to have all our players back,” Wright said. “We were missing Eli (Parquet) at Tennessee, and Eli’s a huge part of our team. Especially on the defensive end and what he brings to our team. It felt good to have everybody back. It felt good to be back at (the Events Center) the last two games. It’s our last game here for 2020 and it felt good to go out with a win. We’ll be back here in January.”

Fast Break

What went right: CU shot 50 percent, held Omaha to a .311 mark, and outrebounded the Mavericks 45-32.

What went wrong: Nothing. The Buffs shot well from the floor and free throw line (18-for-22) while committing only nine turnovers.

Star of the game: It was a balanced attack for CU, but once again it all began with McKinley Wright IV. The senior point guard went 6-for-8 and finished with 17 points, eight assists, five rebounds, and no turnovers. In the two home games this week, Wright recorded 15 assist with only one turnover.

What’s next: The Buffs will play two games early next week in Las Vegas, beginning with a Sunday date against Pac-12 rival Washington in a game that will be played as a nonconference contest (8 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks).

Colorado 91, Nebraska-Omaha 49

NEBRASKA-OMAHA (2-6)

Pile 3-8 0-0 6, Tut 3-5 0-0 6, Akinwole 1-5 0-0 3, Roe 3-6 0-0 7, Ruffin 1-11 1-2 4, Booth 3-9 0-0 8, Hughes 1-4 0-0 2, Robinson 3-10 5-6 11, Luedtke 0-1 0-0 0, Brusseau 0-0 0-0 0, Brougham 1-1 0-1 2, Ferrarini 0-1 0-0 0, Evans 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-61 6-9 49.

COLORADO (4-1)

Battey 4-8 1-2 9, Walton 4-5 4-6 14, Parquet 2-3 0-0 5, Wright 6-8 4-4 17, Schwartz 4-8 1-1 11, Barthelemy 2-6 0-0 4, Horne 3-7 0-0 8, Daniels 1-8 0-0 3, Walker 4-8 6-7 15, Clifford 1-1 2-2 5, O’Brien 0-0 0-0 0, Strating 0-0 0-0 0, Jessup 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-62 18-22 91.

Halftime – Colorado 47-25. 3-Point Goals – Nebraska-Omaha 5-17 (Booth 2-5, Akinwole 1-3, Roe 1-3, Ruffin 1-4, Ferrarini 0-1, Luedtke 0-1), Colorado 11-26 (Schwartz 2-2, Walton 2-2, Horne 2-4, Clifford 1-1, Parquet 1-2, Wright 1-2, Walker 1-3, Daniels 1-5, Barthelemy 0-2, Battey 0-3). Rebounds – Nebraska-Omaha 32 (Pile 11), Colorado 45 (Walker 9). Assists – Nebraska-Omaha 14 (Akinwole 5), Colorado 18 (Wright 8). Total Fouls – Nebraska-Omaha 22, Colorado 15.