PULLMAN, Wash. — For the first time since an injury forced him to the sideline for six games, Colorado 7-footer Dallas Walton returned to the starting lineup Saturday night at Washington State.
It seems staying there will be a game-to-game decision.
With Washington State opting to start a pair of 6-foot-10 freshmen in Efe Abogidi and Dishon Jackson, CU head coach Tad Boyle decided to counter with Walton, who made his first start since Dec. 28 at Arizona.
Senior Jeriah Horne, who had started the previous seven games, came off the bench during the Buffs’ 70-59 comeback victory at Beasley Coliseum. Afterward, Boyle explained that going forward, whoever starts between Walton and Horne might be determined by the opposing personnel.
“Jeriah and Dallas, I talked to them. I look at it like we have six starters,” Boyle said. “Dallas will start against teams that start two bigs, like Washington State did tonight. Jeriah will probably start against teams that have a traditional four-man, a pick-and-pop guy where we’re switching. Evan (Battey), you can plug him in a lot of different spots defensively. Dallas has a skill-set, both offensively and defensively. Jeriah has a skill-set both offensively and defensively. They’re different players, though. So it allows us match up with other teams. That’s how we’re going to kind of handle it as the year moves on.”
Walton returned to the rotation during Wednesday’s loss at Washington, coming off the bench to score six points in 12 minutes. Walton scored six points again on Saturday against the Cougars, including a pair of baskets during an 8-2 CU run that opened the second half.
The Buffs have known about Eli Parquet’s defensive skills for some time. Now, however, the junior guard seems intent on showing the rest of the Pac-12 Conference his credentials for All-Defensive Team consideration.
Parquet provided some of the few defensive highlights during Wednesday’s loss at UW, posting career-highs of four steals and three blocked shots. Parquet established another new career standard on Saturday against the Cougars, recording four blocked shots. Despite going just 0-for-2 from the field, Parquet was one of the most impactful players on the floor, finishing with four blocks, two assists, two rebounds and no turnovers in over 26 minutes of action.
“I don’t think it’s a question on who is the Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12,” CU guard McKinley Wright IV said. “In my eyes, it’s easy. It’s clear as broad daylight. What other guard in the country averages two blocks a game? It’s crazy, the defense he plays on other team’s best perimeter player. He’s been huge for us. Eli, he’s a guy that doesn’t care about his stats. He doesn’t care about scoring. All he cares about is locking down on defense.”
Saturday’s win tied for the fifth-biggest deficit overcome in a comeback victory in CU Buffs history. A look at the program’s top comeback wins since 1947, when those records are first available:
1. 23 points at Kansas State, Feb. 26, 1955.
2. 22 points vs. Texas, Feb. 26, 2011.
3. 20 points at Texas A&M, Jan. 28, 1998.
4. 19 points vs. Washington State, March 8, 2017 (at Pac-12 tournament).
5. 18 points vs. Wyoming, Dec. 10, 1981; 18 points vs. Oklahoma State, Feb. 10, 1999; 18 points at Washington State, Jan. 23, 2021.
Saturday’s rally was the Buffs’ biggest in a regular season Pac-12 contest.
Wright became the 10th CU player to reach the 1,600-point mark in his career…The Buffs had lost three straight at WSU and improved to 4-4 against the Cougars on the road since joining the Pac-12. That 4-4 mark includes one game in Spokane…After struggling to a 1-for-18 mark on 3-pointers against Washington, the Buffs went 3-for-7 in each half against the Cougars to finish 6-for-14 (.429)…Jabari Walker went 3-for-3 with nine points off the bench, and he has shot .615 (24-for-39) over the past five games.