CORVALLIS, Ore. — Three years ago, a sophomore forward from Colorado exploded through the stretch run of the Pac-12 Conference schedule, showing the promise that eventually landed him in the NBA draft.
Late in the 2018-19 season, that player was Tyler Bey. And right now, Jabari Walker is following a similar course.
CU’s talented sophomore forward continued his dominant run on Tuesday during the Buffs’ 90-64 win at Oregon State, posting his fourth consecutive double-double and his Pac-12-leading 13th of the season.
“Jabari Walker is just becoming a beast,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “He had 24 points on 12 shots. That’s really efficient. He’s rebounding the ball obviously at an elite level, leading the league. Really proud of him.
“He’s gaining a lot of confidence. The efficiency is the key. He’s getting better, he really is. Still room for improvement, without a doubt. Defensively I think there’s some things he’s got to continue to get better at. But offensively, he’s really playing within himself. He’s not forcing things too much. I thought he played probably as good a game as he’s played all year tonight.”
Walker matched a career-high with 24 points, a mark he hit previously three weeks ago at Oregon and also in CU’s first round win against Georgetown in last year’s NCAA Tournament. He also recorded a career-high 15 rebounds.
Walker went 6-for-12 from the floor and 10-for-10 at the free throw line, the highest perfect free throw percentage posted in the Pac-12 this season. Walker has connected on 21 consecutive free throws over the past three games, and after a slow start from 3-point range this season he has come on strong lately. Walker went 2-for-3 from the arc on Tuesday, improving his 3-point percentage in Pac-12 games to .375, including 6-for-9 over the past three games.
“Finishing strong. I’m talking to my parents, and I just want to finish strong,” Walker said. “I’m learning my role, I’m learning about what opportunity I have each and every day. I don’t want to leave any regrets. I want to be able to know that every game I went out and played my best.
“It took me almost half the season just to get adjusted to fans, and my free throw percentage has gone up because of it. My 3-point percentage has gone up. As I’m getting more comfortable, I’m learning the game and watching film, and all that definitely helps.”
The Buffs received key all-around contributions from their entire true sophomore class — Walker, Luke O’Brien, Nique Clifford, and Tristan da Silva.
That quartet combined to go 21-for-24 from the floor, 9-for-13 on 3-pointers, and 16-for-20 at the free throw line.
In addition to Walker’s 15th career double-double, O’Brien recorded career-highs in field goals (five), 3-pointers (three), and points (14). Da Silva recorded three offensive rebounds, one steal, and one assist in the game’s first 1:55, eventually finishing with 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Clifford contributed 14 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
Da Silva is 5-for-7 on 3-pointers in the past three games, while Clifford is 5-for-6 in that same span.
CU’s plus-20 rebounding advantage (45-25) matched its highest of the season in Pac-12 play. The Buffs also had a plus-20 rebounding edge in a home win against Washington on Jan. 9…The Buffs went 18-for-22 at the free throw line and have shot .847 (50-59) on free throws over the past three games…CU has won three consecutive games at Gill Coliseum…The Buffs hit 10 3-pointers just once in the season’s first 22 games, but have done so twice in the past three games (although both were against OSU)…CU senior Evan Battey became the 12th Buffs player to make 100 starts in his career.