PORTLAND — It will come as no surprise to Colorado fans that the focus this week for McKinley Wright IV is directed solely on winning a few basketball games.
Still, during the upcoming week it will be difficult to keep the emotions in check. A few spine-tingling moments, and maybe even a few tears, might be inevitable.
After salvaging a split of their two-game trip through Oregon, topping Oregon State 61-57 on Saturday, the Buffs return from two weeks on the road to complete the regular season at home. It will be either a two or three-game homestand, depending on the final verdict regarding the postponed date against Arizona State. Yet either way, the final game in Boulder is looming larger on the horizon for one of the Buffs’ all-time greats.
Wright already has etched a legacy that will be impossible to erase from the CU history book. While the lack of fans, save for a few scattered family members, will be an unfortunate backdrop as Wright says farewell to the CU Events Center, the Buffs’ senior point guard is focused on picking up a few more wins on his home floor.
CU’s final homestand begins Thursday against USC (7 p.m., ESPN TBD). The Buffs play UCLA on Saturday and still have the possible home makeup date against Arizona State that remains in limbo.
“It’s crazy. I’m going to try my best not to get emotional,” Wright said. “Colorado man, this place gave me a home. Like to the point where I wasn’t going to Minnesota for my summers. I was staying in Boulder. Boulder welcomed me, my coaches welcomed me. Coming where I come from, in a rough neighborhood and stuff, Boulder made it easy for me to stay and keep myself from getting into any type of trouble. I miss home, but Boulder kind of gave me the outlet to stay out of the way, stay level-headed, stay grounded, continue to work on my game.
“I’m going to try not to get emotional, but this place gave me a real home and I love the Events Center, the fans, everybody who’s been with me on this ride. It’s going to be fun and we’ve got to get these two wins at home. Potentially three if we make up the ASU one.”
Wright turned in another memorable performance at Oregon State, scoring 21 points — including the Buffs’ first 11 points of the second half — while surpassing the 1,700-point mark in his career and moving past Josh Scott for eighth-place on CU’s all-time scoring list.
More importantly for CU, the win ended a mini-slide in which the Buffs lost consecutive games for the first time this season. Their fifth road win in league play, the program’s most since joining the Pac-12 Conference, bumped the Buffs up one slot to No. 20 in the NET rankings as of Sunday morning. CU also entered Sunday ranked 17th at KenPom.com.
“This team is a connected team,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “They care about each other. They care about winning. And I think it shows the way we played both against Oregon and against Oregon State. We came up a little short against Oregon, but it wasn’t because our guys don’t care or didn’t play hard.”