BOULDER (CBS4) — It was the classic Tad Boyle Era non-conference home game for the Colorado Buffaloes, with a twist. Tight for 30 minutes, a Boyle tongue lashing at the break and then a Buffaloes run to close it out.
It was not Boyle’s words that steered the course for Colorado, it was McKinley Wright’s.
The sophomore guard pulled his teammates aside during his self-scoring run of 11 in the second half which kept the Buffaloes afloat with a one-possession lead and implored his teammates to step up their defense.
“It was vintage McKinley Wright. He says, ‘okay it’s time to get this train moving’ and the train starts moving,” Boyle recalled postgame.
The train went express. The Buffaloes rallied for a 28-4 run to open the game up and close out the Portland Pilots in Wednesday’s 93-69 win.
“It’s a great win for us, especially heading into the Colorado State game on Saturday,” Boyle said. “First half I was really disappointed with our defensive intensity and effort. I felt like some of our frustrations on offense, it affected us on the defensive end. I got after them pretty good at halftime and talked about taking ownership defensively. It started with McKinley and it didn’t end there.”
Lucas Siewert carried the Buffaloes in the first half with 15 points and led his team to an early 12 point lead. But his first-half total was hampered by foul trouble which allowed Portland to get back into the ballgame, erasing that lead to one possession game at the break.
“Lucas carried us in the first half offensively,” Boyle said. “We’ve got to understand how much of a weapon he is. He’s a big-time weapon for us and he’s playing really well right now.”
In the second half, Wright started the climb going 4-for-4 out of the gate and everyone in black and gold took path as the Buffs dropped 54 after the break in the team’s third win of the year in which they scored 93 or more.
Wright finished with 22 points on an efficient 7-of-11 from the field, 2-of-3 from deep and 6-of-6 from the stripe. He also added seven rebounds in three assists in his first looking right performance of the year.
“I think I’m starting to get back in my groove,” he said. “Earlier in the year, I was trying to force it. I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just trusting my teammates and making sure they’re involved too.”
That they were with five CU players hit double digits in the point column. Siewert finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Tyler Bey with 12 points and 6 rebounds, Shane Gatling with 11 and Evan Battey with 10.
“We’re a working progress but if this team stays unselfish we’re going to be good,” Boyle said. “McKinley really distributed the ball well.”
The Buffs are now 4-1 and continue a four-game homestand on Saturday at 1 o’clock when they’ll tip-off against Colorado State.
Last season the Buffaloes lost in Fort Collins and have dropped two straight to the Rams.
“We’re ready for it (a shot at redemption.) That’s all I’ll say. It’s going to be fun Saturday.”
CU is just 4-4 in the Boyle Era against their in-state rivals. Three of their four tournament teams in that time won meaning the game is usually a good indicator of what we can expect come March.
Our players will be ready I guarantee that. We just have to make sure we don’t get too keyed up. We’re going to get CSU’s best shot, we always do. We don’t have to do anything special just play who we are. We’re playing this game for our fans. I hope our fans appreciate that and show up. We need to have this place rocking.”