INDIANAPOLIS — The embrace perhaps will not be as memorable as the one Tad Boyle and McKinley Wright IV shared several weeks ago at the end of the final home game at the CU Events Center.
Yet it in its own way, as Wright fell into his coach’s arms while exiting the floor for the Buffaloes for the final time, it was equally emotional.
There was nothing left but hugs and tears at the end of a frustrating and forgettable finish to what otherwise was a stirring run by McKinley Wright IV and the Colorado Buffaloes.
Unable to solve a smothering defensive effort by Florida State while committing far too many little mistakes for a big stage, CU’s Sweet 16 dreams ended Monday night with a 71-53 second-round defeat against the Seminoles at Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum.
The Buffs, who had been seeking their first Sweet 16 berth in the modern history of the NCAA Tournament, finish the season at 23-9.
Boyle said before the game the team received the news alert regarding the horrific shooting at the Table Mesa King Soopers, which claimed 10 lives, including Boulder Police officer Eric Talley. No doubt, it was an instance where losing a basketball game, even one on college basketball’s biggest stage with possible program history on the line, was put into proper perspective.
“Win or lose tonight, I felt an emptiness in my stomach,” Boyle said. “Another senseless act of violence that we’ve experienced as a country many, many times. It puts this game in perspective. It certainly puts losing in perspective. But even if we would’ve won this game and celebrated going to the Sweet 16, it would have put a damper on it. My heart goes out to the families that were affected and those that lost their lives.”
Wright found little room to operate while Florida State ran taller, wide-armed defenders at him like the 6-foot-6 Anthony Polite and 6-foot-9 freshman Scottie Barnes.
It was an ugly first half for the Buffs, who finished the opening frame with a 9-for-29 mark from the field, zero free throw attempts, and nearly as many turnovers (11) as they committed the entire game two days earlier during the first-round win against Georgetown.
Despite those struggles, the Buffs trailed just 24-20 at the break, and though the Seminoles extended their edge to 28-20 shortly after halftime, consecutive 3-pointers from Keeshawn Barthelemy and D’Shawn Schwartz kept the Buffs within 36-35 with more than 11 minutes remaining.
However, Florida State responded with a 19-6 run that sealed CU’s fate. The Buffs finished with 19 turnovers, their second-highest total of the season, and allowed FSU to shoot .625 after halftime.
In the final game for Wright, CU’s all-time assists leader and the program’s No. 6 all-time scorer, he finished with a 4-for-12 mark and 10 points. After posting 13 assists without a turnover against Georgetown, Wright was held to just one assist while matching a season-high with five turnovers.
It also was the finale for Schwartz, the Colorado Springs native who enjoyed one of the Buffs’ few solid nights offensively, going 5-for-9 with 13 points and six rebounds.
Afterward, though, the thoughts were focused less on the disappointing finish than the heartbreak back home.
“I feel terrible for the families who were affected by what happened in Boulder,” Wright said. “People get so caught up, even us as players, in playing this game. And it’s a privilege to play this game. But we have to realize that life outside basketball is real. A lot of people lost loved ones today because some coward went in shooting up King Soopers. For me, where I come from, that happens often and I see it a lot. I’m hurt and devastated for those families who have to experience this.”
What went right: The Buffs outrebounded Florida State 35-27.
What went wrong: CU shot just .357, its fourth-lowest mark of the season, and committed 19 turnovers, the Buffs’ second-highest total of the season.
Star of the game: D’Shawn Schwartz. The senior from Colorado Springs paced the Buffs in his final game with 13 points and also added six rebounds.
What’s next: The offseason. The Buffs say farewell to a number of decorated seniors and will soon welcome a talented 2021 recruiting class to the mix.
No. 14 Florida St. 71, No. 22 Colorado 53
Battey 3-4 5-7 11, Walton 0-0 0-0 0, Parquet 1-3 0-0 2, Wright 4-12 2-2 10, Schwartz 5-9 0-0 13, J.Walker 0-5 0-0 0, Horne 1-9 0-0 3, Daniels 2-4 0-0 5, Barthelemy 3-8 0-0 7, da Silva 1-2 0-0 2, Clifford 0-0 0-0 0, O’Brien 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 20-56 7-11 53.
FLORIDA ST. (18-6)
Gray 2-8 5-7 9, Koprivica 2-2 1-1 5, Evans 0-2 2-2 2, Polite 8-12 2-2 22, M.Walker 2-4 3-4 7, Barnes 2-2 2-2 6, Osborne 4-8 2-3 11, Calhoun 2-4 0-0 4, Wilkes 2-2 0-0 5, Jack 0-3 0-0 0, Ngom 0-0 0-0 0, Ballard 0-0 0-0 0, Light 0-0 0-0 0, Miles 0-0 0-0 0, Prieto 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-47 17-21 71.
Halftime – Florida St. 24-20. 3-Point Goals – Colorado 6-25 (Schwartz 3-5, Daniels 1-1, Barthelemy 1-5, Horne 1-6, Battey 0-1, Parquet 0-1, J.Walker 0-2, Wright 0-4), Florida St. 6-17 (Polite 4-7, Wilkes 1-1, Osborne 1-4, Calhoun 0-1, Evans 0-1, Jack 0-3). Fouled Out – Koprivica. Rebounds – Colorado 35 (Horne 8), Florida St. 27 (Gray 6). Assists – Colorado 12 (Daniels 4), Florida St. 16 (Barnes 5). Total Fouls – Colorado 23, Florida St. 15.