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CU men’s basketball notes: McKinley Wright IV honored before big performance in win against No. 19 USC

Jabari Walker returns from six-game injury absence

BOULDER, CO - Feb. 25, 2021: ...
BOULDER, CO – February 25, 2021: McKinley Wright IV is honored before the Colorado USC Pac-12 men’s game in Boulder on February 25, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Hugs with Rick George are becoming a regular highlight of Colorado men’s basketball wins against USC.

Two years ago, George smothered head coach Tad Boyle in a massive bear hug after the Buffaloes topped the Trojans in a contentious game in Los Angeles. The scene was a little more festive before Thursday night’s 80-62 win by the Buffs against No. 19 USC, as George helped honor CU point guard McKinley Wright IV.

George bestowed a commemorative basketball to Wright honoring the senior guard becoming the first Pac-12 player to collect at least 1,700 points, 600 rebounds, and 600 assists in his career. After sharing a moment with George, Wright picked apart the Trojans’ defense, finishing with one of the top assists games in program history with his family getting to watch the action in person for the first time this season.

“That meant the world to me. I didn’t know that was coming,” Wright said of the pregame recognition. “Rick, since I’ve stepped on campus he’s been a really good mentor for me and somebody I kind of look up to. Rick has done an unbelievable job in the athletic department and a shout-out to Rick for doing that tonight. He cracks jokes to me all the time before the games, after the games. Rick and I have a really good relationship and I appreciate him for doing that for me tonight.”

Wright finished with 15 points and 14 assists, becoming just the fourth CU player to post a 14-assist game. Jay Humphries and Mike Reid also own 14-assist games, while Jose Winston owns the single-game CU record with 15 against Coppin State on Jan. 2, 2001. It was the ninth double-digit assist game of Wright’s career, breaking a tie with Humphries for the most in team history.

Although it was a tough shooting night for Wright (4-for-14), he paced another stellar night at the free throw line for the Buffs (14-for-15) by going 7-for-7. Wright passed Stevie Wise for seventh-place on the all-time scoring list, and after finishing the night with 1,733 points, he has Askia Booker’s hold on sixth-place (1,740) within sight.

Wright also matched a career-high with three steals. And although this was the third home game in which a limited number of family members were allowed in the CU Events Center, it was the first time this season Wright’s family was able to make the trip.

“Tonight, my parents, my grandmother, my grandfather, my brother and my cousin, they were all able to make it tonight,” Wright said. “That meant a lot for me. The first game all year — we’re 20-something, almost 30 games into the season — and this was the first time they got to see me play in person all year. It meant the world.”

Walker returns

For the first time since the Jan. 30 home loss against Utah, freshman forward Jabari Walker was in the Buffs’ rotation.

Walker came off the bench to play eight minutes, going 2-for-4 from the field before finishing with six points and two rebounds. As he has sporadically throughout the season, Walker battled foul trouble (four fouls), but his return no doubt provides a huge boost for a CU team eyeing a postseason run.

Walker missed the previous six games due to a foot injury, and afterward head coach Tad Boyle admitted they will have to carefully monitor Walker’s health the rest of the way.

“It’s all based on his foot and how he’s feeling,” Boyle said. “We told Jabari you’ve got to be honest with us as coaches and the trainer, Rawley Klingsmith, about how it’s feeling. Because if there is pain there we’ve got to kind of limit and back off a little bit. It’s great to have him back. He was a big part of this team when he went down. He’s still a big part of it.”

Notable

On Thursday, USC’s Evan Mobley was named as one of 10 finalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year honor…A likely top-five pick in the 2021 NBA draft, Mobley has been held to a combined 11-for-27 mark in CU’s two wins against the Trojans…Eli Parquet again matched his career-high with 10 points. Parquet has scored 10 points four times this year, including three times in the past six games…USC entered the game boasting a league-best average rebounding margin of plus-7.63 in Pac-12 games. CU outrebounded the Trojans 35-34 and also outrebounded USC 38-35 in the win in Los Angeles on Dec. 31…With two 3-pointers, CU senior D’Shawn Schwartz increased his career total to 141 and passed former teammate Lucas Siewert for seventh all-time…The win was Boyle’s 150th home win in his 11 seasons at CU. He owns a home mark of 150-28.