CORVALLIS, Ore. — No question, some of the bad losses over the past month will haunt Colorado when it comes to seeding at the Pac-12 Conference tournament or even the NCAA Tournament.
Nevertheless, the 2020-21 Buffaloes now have a chance to win more conference games than any CU team since the Buffs joined the Pac-12.
The Buffs were able to shake off their first back-to-back losses of the season and also were able to hold off a feisty Oregon State squad on Saturday night, posting a critical 61-57 win at Gill Coliseum.
CU improved to 17-7 overall and 11-6 in the Pac-12, matching the 2011-12 Buffs squad that ultimately won the conference tournament for the program’s most league wins since joining the Pac-12. Even though the Pac-12 has moved to a 20-game conference schedule this season, the Buffs will have an opportunity to post the program’s highest win total in Pac-12 play within the former 18-game format when they host USC on Thursday.
It also was CU’s fifth road win this season in Pac-12 play, surpassing the 2012-13 team (four) for the most since joining the league, and it is the highest total of conference road wins since the 1961-62 Big Eight champs recorded six conference road wins.
“This was a must-win game,” CU forward Evan Battey said. “I think our team understood that. Our whole program understood that. That was our mindset coming in. We’ve only lost two games back-to-back (once) this whole year. We had to end this skid. We couldn’t make it three in a row. We’ve done a great job of being resilient and bouncing back after losses. Two losses definitely hurt us. We have the mindset that if we have a bad game, we aren’t having another one. I think this team is just really resilient.”
Oregon State jumped to an early 9-3 lead but the Buffs never trailed after answering with an 11-0 run while building a 35-29 lead at halftime.
Oregon State scored the first six points of the second half to tie the game, and the Beavers remained within a point after a 3-pointer from Ethan Thompson with less than 12 minutes remaining. But CU answered once again, scoring seven consecutive points in an 11-2 run that gave the Buffs a 55-45 lead with 4 minutes, 10 seconds remaining.
Oregon State managed to cut it to four points on a driving bucket from Thompson with 30.4 seconds to play, but Jeriah Horne knocked down a pair of free throws to help keep the Beavers at bay the rest of the way. CU has been the top free throw shooting team in the nation for much of the season, and they got the job done at the line against OSU, finishing 19-for-22.
Senior point guard McKinley Wright IV at times carried the Buffs, scoring CU’s first 11 points of the second half before finishing with 21 points, three rebounds, and three assists. Horne and Battey added 10 points apiece.
Wright passed Josh Scott for eighth-place on CU’s all-time scoring list.
“At some point, you need your best player or players to make plays when things are coming down the stretch,” head coach Tad Boyle said. “Players make plays, or they don’t make plays. And McKinley made plays tonight. I think he felt better physically tonight, which showed. He had a big pull-up jump shot. He got to the rim and finished. It was a little bit of trading baskets and we couldn’t really get stops with them, but we kept scoring.
“McKinley was a big part of that. You need your best players to step up in games like this and make plays. McKinley did that tonight.”
What went right: CU went 19-for-22 at the free throw line, outrebounded OSU 34-30, and held the Beavers to a .362 mark from the field.
What went wrong: The Buffs struggled again from 3-point range, finishing 4-for-18.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright IV. CU’s point guard scored 21 points, including the Buffs’ first 11 points of the second half.
What’s next: CU begins the final homestand of the season on Thursday against USC (7 p.m., ESPN TBD).
Colorado 61, Oregon St. 57
COLORADO (17-7, 11-6 Pac-12)
Battey 3-4 4-6 10, Walton 1-4 4-4 6, Parquet 1-3 0-0 3, Wright 7-12 6-6 21, Schwartz 2-9 2-3 6, da Silva 2-5 1-1 5, Daniels 0-1 0-0 0, Horne 3-5 2-2 10, Barthelemy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-43 19-22 61.
OREGON ST. (11-11, 7-9)
Alatishe 5-8 2-2 12, Silva 3-5 2-2 8, Lucas 1-9 2-2 5, Reichle 3-10 0-1 7, Thompson 6-17 3-4 18, Hunt 1-4 0-0 3, Andela 2-4 0-1 4, Calloo 0-1 0-0 0, Franklin 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-58 9-12 57.
Halftime — Colorado 35-29. 3-point goals — Colorado 4-18 (Horne 2-3, Parquet 1-2, Wright 1-3, Daniels 0-1, Walton 0-2, da Silva 0-2, Schwartz 0-5), Oregon St. 6-22 (Thompson 3-7, Hunt 1-3, Reichle 1-5, Lucas 1-6, Calloo 0-1). Rebounds — Colorado 34 (Battey, Walton, Schwartz 6), Oregon St. 30 (Alatishe 10). Assists — Colorado 8 (Wright 3), Oregon St. 14 (Thompson 7). Total fouls — Colorado 16, Oregon St. 17.