This time, Colorado decided not to wait before taking control.
Four days after topping Washington State behind a frantic comeback, the Buffaloes and Cougars met again Wednesday night at the CU Events Center. Although a shorthanded Washington State team attempted to replicate the Buffs’ rally from 18 points down a few days earlier, CU held off the Cougars for a 70-58 Pac-12 Conference victory in the first game of a key five-game homestand.
CU never trailed after reeling off 20 consecutive points in the first half before posting its sixth win in the past seven games. Washington State played without leading scorer Isaac Bonton, who was sidelined with a non-COVID illness.
“A win is a win. You can’t ever complain about that,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “But I think anybody who watched that game and saw how we played, especially towards the end of the first half offensively, and then the second half offensively, understands that Colorado has to play better than that in order to be successful as this year plays out. I thought we got really lackadaisical with the basketball. We made really poor decisions offensively in the second half with the basketball.”
Four different players scored during CU’s 20-0 run in the first half, and the Buffs held a 39-24 lead at halftime.
Even without their leading scorer, Washington State did not go away quietly, stringing together a 10-1 run early in the second half and adding a 9-0 run minutes later to trim CU’s lead to 49-43. But a 3-pointer from D’Shawn Schwartz gave CU much-needed breathing room and the Buffs, the top free throw shooting team in the nation, kept the Cougars at bay from the free throw line, going 16-for-19 in the second half and finishing 20-for-23 overall.
CU did not commit a turnover until 6 minutes, 5 seconds remained in the first half. But the Buffs recorded three more before halftime and had nine in the second half.
“We talk about 40 minutes, playing how we play for 40 minutes,” CU forward Evan Battey said. “In the first half, we did that. The second half, not so much. It was such a letdown, honestly, the second half.”
Senior point guard McKinley Wright IV didn’t have his best shooting game, finishing 2-for-7, but he went 11-for-11 at the free throw line and posted a team-high 16 points with seven assists. Those assists gave Wright an even 600 in his career, as he became the first Buffs player to reach that mark.
Senior Jeriah Horne came off the bench to go 6-for-9 overall and 3-for-5 on 3-pointers before finishing with 15 points and five rebounds. Battey scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game and the sixth time in the past seven games, recording 14 points and five rebounds.
“Our energy was really bad, starting with me,” Wright said. “When my energy is down, the entire team’s energy is down. So I take full responsibility. I’ve got to be better coming out in the second half and not worry about missed shots, or the early turnover I had in the second half. Just move on and keep playing. Our energy, it was shot the second half.”
What went right: CU scored 20 unanswered points in the first half, finished 10-for-17 on 3-pointers, and went 20-for-23 at the free throw line.
What went wrong: CU didn’t record a turnover through nearly the first 14 minutes of the game but suffered them in bunches the rest of the way, finishing with 13. WSU also outrebounded the Buffs 29-27.
Star of the game: Jeriah Horne. Evan Battey and McKinley Wright turned in solid games as well, but Horne scored seven of his 15 points during CU’s game-changing 20-0 run in the first half. He also shared the team lead with five rebounds while going 6-for-9 from the field.
What’s next: CU’s homestand continues on Saturday afternoon against Utah (12:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Colorado 70, Washington St. 58
WASHINGTON ST. (9-7, 2-7 Pac-12)
Jakimovski 0-2 0-0 0, Abogidi 1-5 0-0 2, Jackson 3-10 6-8 12, Rapp 4-7 0-0 9, Williams 6-12 0-0 15, Rodman 1-3 0-0 2, Bamba 5-9 1-1 13, Kunc 2-4 0-0 5, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Fitzgerald-Warren 0-0 0-0 0, Markovetskyy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-52 7-9 58.
COLORADO (13-4, 7-3)
Battey 4-8 6-6 14, Walton 1-1 1-2 4, Parquet 1-4 0-0 2, Wright 2-7 11-11 16, Schwartz 2-7 0-0 6, Horne 6-9 0-1 15, Daniels 1-3 0-0 3, Walker 2-3 2-3 7, Barthelemy 1-2 0-0 3, da Silva 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-44 20-23 70.
Halftime — Colorado 39-24. 3-point goals — Washington St. 7-20 (Williams 3-7, Bamba 2-3, Rapp 1-2, Kunc 1-3, Jakimovski 0-1, Rodman 0-1, Abogidi 0-3), Colorado 10-17 (Horne 3-5, Schwartz 2-5, Barthelemy 1-1, Daniels 1-1, Walker 1-1, Walton 1-1, Wright 1-2, Parquet 0-1). Fouled out — Jackson. Rebounds — Washington St. 24 (Jackson 8), Colorado 23 (Battey, Horne 5). Assists — Washington St. 7 (Rapp, Williams 2), Colorado 16 (Wright 7). Total fouls — Washington St. 21, Colorado 14.