BOULDER – Colorado let a big lead nearly slip away again, but a strong start and finish to the second half was enough to keep the Buffaloes rolling.
McKinley Wright IV had 10 of his 17 points during a late run, Namon Wright had 16 points and 10 rebounds, George King also scored 16 and Colorado held on to beat Washington State 82-73 on Thursday night.
The Buffaloes (12-7, 4-3 Pac-12) have won four of five conference games after dropping two in Oregon to start the season. Colorado has wins over Arizona and Arizona State, as well as Saturday’s win at UCLA.
“Tonight was very important to our team to keep that momentum going and get above .500 in the league,” Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said. “Now it’s a separation game on Saturday.”
Viont’e Daniels tied his career best with 18 points and Carter Skaggs scored all 17 of his points in the second half when the Cougars cut a 26-point lead to five.
Washington State (9-9, 1-5) couldn’t build on its 78-53 win over Cal last weekend. The Cougars hit 53.6 percent from 3-point range in the 25-point victory over the Bears but started cold from long range until catching fire late.
“Second half I felt like we toughened up,” Cougars coach Ernie Kent said. “We changed lineups, we put a little bit more toughness on the floor. We got back in the game and then we got into a great rhythm.”
The Buffaloes led by 15 at halftime and opened the second half hitting three 3-pointers to extend the lead to 55-32 with 15:54 left. A free throw by Lucas Siewert gave Colorado a 58-32 lead with 15:04 left, but Washington State rallied to make it close.
“Just a lack of defense, lack of concentration and effort,” Wright IV said. “We know they’re great 3-point shooters and we held them to five in the first half but they got 10 in the second half.”
Down 21, the Cougars went on an 18-2 run to get within 63-58. Colorado went without a basket for 5:26 before King ended the drought and sparked a 12-0 that put it away.
BIG PICTUREWashington State: Junior G KJ Langston was suspended indefinitely Tuesday for violation of team rules. ... The Cougars are 0-7 all-time in Boulder. ... Washington State shot 40.9 percent from the field after hitting 56.9 percent against Cal.
Colorado: There was a moment of silence observed for Buffaloes lacrosse player Julia Sarcona, who died in a car accident on Saturday, and Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who committed suicide Tuesday. ... Colorado is 12-3 all-time against the Cougars and 11-2 since joining the Pac-12 prior to the 2011-12 season.
COOL DOWNWashington State started the game 6 of 19 from 3-point range before making six of its next eight to get back into the game. The long ball has helped Cougars this season, but it couldn’t get them all the way back against Colorado.
“When we got in that second half, Viont’e Daniels, every shot was wide open; Carter Skagss got into a great rhythm of hitting wide-open shots and tough ones, too,” Kent said. “We put ourselves in a hole not playing very smart. We settled down and did a much better job in the second half.”
EYES ON THE PRIZEThe Buffaloes are trying to get back to the Big Dance after playing in the NIT in 2017 and took a big step by not having a letdown after a big road win in Los Angeles.
“We’re trying to make it to the NCAA Tournament so we can’t let games like this slip,” senior Dominique Collier said. “UCLA, that was a good win on the road, but we know Washington State and Washington are big games, too.”
UP NEXTWashington State: At Utah on Saturday.
Colorado: Hosts Washington on Saturday.