LAS VEGAS — As the backup to star point guard McKinley Wright IV, Colorado redshirt freshman Keeshawn Barthelemy isn’t afforded many minutes.
Barthelemy has done his best to make the most of those minutes. During the Buffaloes’ thrilling 72-70 win against USC on Friday in the Pac-12 Conference semifinals, Barthelemy did so in clutch fashion.
After Wright was momentarily sidelined from an elbow to the side of his head from USC’s Chevez Goodwin, Barthelemy entered the fray and not only maintained CU’s early momentum, but amplified it. When Wright went down the Buffs had scored 10 consecutive points. After he hobbled off CU added seven more in a row, with the final six coming on a pair of 3-pointers from Barthelemy.
Barthelemy soon added a driving layup to finish with eight points, his third-highest scoring output of the season and his best offensive showing since posting 10 against Washington, on the same T-Mobile Arena floor in Las Vegas, on Dec. 20.
“I’m so proud of Keeshawn and so excited for Keeshawn’s future,” Wright said. “It’s hard for him being a freshman and playing behind me and not playing a lot of minutes every game. He’s stayed strong throughout the whole season. I always remind him that next year is your time to take over. It’s your team next year. He doesn’t get frustrated. He don’t get mad about it. He knows how much I appreciate him and love him. I’m excited for him. He’s going to be real special. I’m just so excited for him and his future.”
As for Wright, he admitted he wasn’t certain if Goodwin’s elbow was going to knock him out of the game for the duration.
“It hurt. That’s a big, strong dude. Luckily I have a big head or else I would’ve been out for probably longer,” Wright said. “It hurt, man. I’ve got a little knot back here. But it’s a part of basketball. I ain’t mad at him. He got an offensive rebound and was swinging through trying to create space to try to get a shot up. It hurt, but I’ll be all right.”
It has been a rough few weeks for former Tad Boyle assistants.
On Friday, San Jose State announced it was parting ways with Jean Prioleau after four seasons. A member of Boyle’s original staff at CU, Prioleau spent seven seasons with the Buffs, the final two as Boyle’s associate head coach.
On March 1 another former Boyle assistant, Rodney Billups, was let go at his alma mater the University of Denver after going 48-94 in five seasons.
Prioleau’s tenure at San Jose State didn’t fare any better, and he dealt with adversity almost immediately. Hired late in the offseason on Aug. 4, 2017, Prioleau replaced Dave Wojcik, who cited personal reasons as the reason for his abrupt departure but who soon was sued by a former player for alleged verbal abuse. Not long afterward the Spartans’ best player, Brandon Clarke, transferred to Gonzaga. Clarke became the 21st overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, and player attrition continued to be a problem for Prioleau.
San Jose State posted consecutive 1-17 seasons in the Mountain West Conference during Prioleau’s first two seasons, and he ended his four-year run with an overall mark of 20-93 and a MWC record of 8-62.
Friday’s win was CU’s first in a ranked-versus-ranked matchup since a 24th-ranked Buffs team topped No. 10 Oregon 100-91 at home on Jan. 5, 2014…CU grabbed 15 offensive rebounds, its third-best total of the season…CU has recorded 22 wins for the seventh time in program history. Six of those have occurred in Boyle’s 11-season tenure…Wright matched a career-high with four 3-pointers, and with 24 points he improved his career total to 1,817, becoming the sixth Buffs player to surpass the 1,800 mark.