Skip to content

Game day notes: CU Buffs big men carried the load in win against Cal

Buffs have had more success than most in slowing USC’s Evan Mobley

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle leads the 23rd-ranked Buffaloes into the Pac-12 semifinals Friday night against No. 24 USC.
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle leads the 23rd-ranked Buffaloes into the Pac-12 semifinals Friday night against No. 24 USC.

LAS VEGAS — In an off game offensively for leading scorer and Colorado sparkplug McKinley Wright IV, the Buffaloes’ big men picked up the slack.

Wright missed several looks that typically are money for the senior point guard during CU’s 61-58 win against Cal late Thursday night in the Pac-12 Conference quarterfinals. Yet the Buffs were able to pull away in the second half, and hold off the Golden Bears down the stretch, thanks to big nights from the frontcourt trio of Evan Battey, Dallas Walton, and Jabari Walker.

Walton recorded nine points for his top scoring total since he posted 12 against Oregon State on Feb. 8. He recorded seven of those points during a 1-minute, 42-second span during a 10-2 Buffs run late in the first half that helped the Buffs take a 24-20 halftime lead.

After the break it was Battey’s turn. The fourth-year junior scored four points and dished out an assist during a 15-3 CU run early in the second half that gave the Buffs the lead for good. Walker capped that run with a 3-pointer.

The frontcourt trio combined for an 11-for-16 mark on a night in which the rest of the team shot just .250 (9-for-36). They also combined to score 32 of CU’s 61 points. For Battey it was his top scoring game since he matched a career-high with 21 points against Arizona on Feb. 6.

“If you look at (Battey and Walton’s) numbers over the last five or six games, they both have struggled a little bit from a percentage standpoint relative to what we normally expect out of both of them,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “I thought Dallas was terrific in that first half. He kind of kept us in the game.

“And then Evan got going emotionally in the second half. He plays so hard and he’s got such a passion for the game. Those guys are important to us. And Jabari Walker, great minutes off the bench.”

Semifinal showdown

The third-seeded Buffs will make their fourth appearance in the Pac-12 semifinals when they face second-seeded USC in the late game Friday night (9:30 p.m. MT, ESPN).

Until last year, the Buffs had not participated in a ranked-versus-ranked matchup since January of 2014 but took part in two last year, going 0-2 (CU played four ranked teams in 2019-20, but defeated No. 13 Dayton and No. 4 Oregon while unranked). Friday’s matchup pairs the No. 23 Buffs against the 24th-ranked Trojans.

CU has had USC’s number in a contentious rivalry over the past three seasons, posting a 6-0 mark against the Trojans since the start of the 2018-19 season. This year, the Buffs have been one of the few teams that have made things difficult for USC all-everything freshman Evan Mobley, who earlier this week became the first Pac-12 player to sweep the league’s Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season.

Mobley has shot under 50 percent just five times this season, but two of those occurred against the Buffs. He went 5-for-14 when CU won in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve and was held to a 6-for-13 mark in Boulder on Feb. 25.

“Evan Mobley, he’s Evan Mobley. All the credit in the world to him because he’s such a good player,” Battey said. “You can’t really stop those guys when you’ve got talent at that level. You can’t really stop those guys, you can only hope to contain them. We’re going to do the best we can to contain him and limit his impact on the game.”

Enfield on Buffs

The coach Buffs fans love to loathe, USC’s Andy Enfield, offered these thoughts on the Buffs following USC’s double-overtime win against Utah in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

“Just like Utah, Colorado is a really good 3-point shooting team and they have the best play-making guard in the league in McKinley Wright,” Enfield said. “And they have physical bigs. We have to come ready. We have to defend them, and then we have to make some shots. The game at home, it was a two-point game with 7 minutes left and I think we scored four points the last 7 minutes. Then on the road, it was a close game and all of the sudden they made about six or seven straight threes on us. So we’ve got to take the three away.”


The Buffs are seeking their first berth in the Pac-12 title game since winning the tournament their first year in the league in 2012. In the past appearances in the semifinals, CU lost to Arizona in 2014 and lost to Washington in 2019…Wright needs seven points to become the sixth CU player to reach 1,800 points in his career…The winner will play the victor of Friday’s first semifinal between Oregon and Oregon State for the title on Saturday night.