Dallas Walton’s leg was not feeling 100 percent. And given he suffered three separate ACL tears over the course of six years earlier in his basketball career, Colorado opted to proceed with caution.
The 7-footer from Arvada West did not play during CU’s 72-62 Pac-12 Conference win Thursday night at USC, vacating his spot in the starting lineup for the first time this season. CU head coach Tad Boyle said afterward that Walton has recently been dealing with an unspecified lower leg injury.
“He’s battling a lower leg issue. If push came to shove and we had to have Dallas tonight, he probably could have gone,” Boyle said. “Having caution with him, a guy with three ACLs. It’s one of those deals where Rawley Klingsmith, our trainer, and Dallas and talked about it. I kind of left it up to Dallas and he did not feel 100 percent. And we need Dallas Walton at 100 percent.
“It’s a long season. It’s kind of a day-to-day thing. It’s not something that his season’s in jeopardy, but we have to get him back healthy and 100 percent right. Hopefully we’ll have that for Saturday (at UCLA). We’ll see.”
The loss of Walton forced Boyle to turn to 6-foot-7 senior Jeriah Horne to team with 6-foot-8 Evan Battey against a USC frontcourt featuring 7-footer Evan Mobley and the 6-foot-10 Isaiah Mobley. But the undersized Buffs more than held their own, outrebounding USC 38-35 while turning 12 offensive rebounds into a 16-10 advantage on second-chance points.
Horne finished with 10 points and five rebounds, and CU also received solid frontcourt production from freshman Jabari Walker, who contributed seven points, five rebounds, and a blocked shot off the bench.
CU senior D’Shawn Schwartz posted the first double-double of his career, finishing with 13 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.
What was perhaps more impressive than the final numbers was how Schwartz arrived at them. Throughout his CU career, Boyle has implored the 6-foot-7 Schwartz to find ways to help the Buffs win on nights when his 3-point shot isn’t falling. Schwartz was able to do just that against the Trojans, as he was just 1-for-5 on 3-pointers but finished 6-for-6 on free throws.
“I didn’t shoot the ball necessarily well. I hit my first one and then couldn’t really hit one after that,” Schwartz said. “I just tried to contribute on the glass, tried to play defense as best I could, and tried to make plays for others. Just like the little things to help win games.”
McKinley Wright IV famously played through pain two years ago when he gutted out a left shoulder injury throughout Pac-12 play before having surgery immediately after the season.
Wright looked as if he was in serious pain again on Monday night when he limped off the floor at Arizona in the final minute with a right ankle injury. Yet he did not look afflicted in the slightest at USC, as Wright finished with 19 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
“He’s a tough kid,” Boyle said. “Nobody loves to play the game of basketball on our team probably as much as McKinley does. I knew that unless they were going to cut that leg off, he was going to play.”
With four assists, Wright’s career total increased to 550, leaving him 12 behind Jay Humphries’ program record of 562.
Freshman Tristan da Silva played for the first time since Dec. 4 against Northern Colorado, entering the game midway through the first half and playing about five and a half minutes. Da Silva hit a free throw at the 10:07 mark of the first half for his first career point…With three steals, Wright broke a three-way tie with Billy Law and Michael Lee for 13th-place among CU’s all-time steals leaders. Wright now has 117 career steals, two behind 12th-place Blair Wilson…In three career games at USC, Battey has shot .538 (14-for-26)…Schwartz is 16-for-16 on free throws in his career against the Trojans…Walker went 3-for-4 and has shot 15-for-23 (.652) over the past five games.