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Buffaloes decimate South Dakota in basketball opener

McKinley Wright had 20 points to lead the Buffs.

Northern Iowa v Colorado Photo by Lizzy Barrett/Getty Images

The Colorado Buffaloes are finally back on the basketball court and they absolutely walloped the South Dakota Coyotes, winning 84-61. Everyone saw the floor, no one got yelled at and McKinley Wright IV was a superstar.

We expected the Buffs to run their offense through Wright, and lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened early in this game. Wright is so good, so skilled and so focused. His teammates struggled to shoot, but the senior guard scored 16 first half points, shot 6 of 9 from the field, and his Buffs committed just two turnovers in the half.

Aside from Kin being Kin, the Buffs worked the ball into the paint where they had a significant size, weight and skill advantage. Colorado scored most of their first half points in the paint or at the line and had 10 offensive rebounds. Forwards Jabari Walker and Dallas Walton were particularly effective on the glass and were aggressive attacking the rim.

With a strong team first half, even with poor shooting from the field (16-41 overall, 4-12 from three), the Buffs led 45-31 at the half. They looked the far superior team and McKinley looked the best players the Coyotes had ever seen. The only reason is was that close is because of their penchant for fouling.

After the break, the Buffs came out hot, hitting their threes and playing lock down defense. It was almost surely a win already, but they put things out of reach with a 12-0 run that built the lead to 60-36. After that run, Wright took his foot off the pedal, Boyle put in the young guys and the game became a scrimmage of sorts.

The most impressive display from the scrimmage-like second half was Keeshawn Barthelemy, the freshman guard from Quebec. He has a lightning-quick first step and got to the rim whenever he wanted. He totaled 11 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in his debut. He was later joined by Jeriah Horne scoring 11 second half points with some beautiful shot-making. Horne can’t really create his own shot, isn’t very good at finishing in traffic, but that is a very pretty jumper he’s got.

The Buffs most definitely lost focus and had a sketchy final stretch. That could be worrisome if they’re playing teams better than South Dakota, but it doesn’t matter here. If they were ever in danger of blowing their 20-point lead, Wright would have stepped up and asserted control, but everyone knew the game was over.

After this 84-61 win, the Buffs will take on the Kansas State Wildcats on Friday (6:30 p.m., ESPNU). K-State just lost to a decent Drake team, so don’t expect much from that rebuilding squad. The Buffs should roll if they play with focus.

Some quick thoughts on the game:

  • The Buffs went with a big lineup of McKinley Wright, Eli Parquet, Maddox Daniels (in place of D’Shawn Schwartz, out because of COVID protocol), Evan Battey and Dallas Walton. It was a surprise to see Walton in the lineup, but it makes sense that Boyle wants someone who can protect the rim and rebound, even if he gives up some offense.
  • Walton starting made even more sense seeing how badly Jeriah Horne struggled in the first 30 minutes. He looked a bit out of it on defense, was jumped over on the glass, and just lacks that explosiveness. He hit three gorgeous threes in the second half, but he doesn’t look like the pure scorer we might have expected.
  • The rest of the bigs saw the floor often with Evan Battey dealing with foul trouble. Jabari Walker was fantastic and is going to be really good in a few years. He plays with so much energy and isn’t afraid to let it rip from deep. Tristan da Silva looks, uh, raw, but he has a good feel for the game and works hard on defense. Then of course Alex Strating came in, put on his hat hard and put in a shift at the screen factory.
  • The Buffs are going to need all their frontcourt depth over the season. Battey is notoriously foul prone, Walton has years of injuries, Horne is clearly inconsistent and Walker is yet unproven. Schwartz playing should help if they can downsize, but there are some real questions moving forward if anyone misses time. Strating will also see plenty of time whenever Boyle needs productive minutes.
  • The backcourt was hit-or-miss aside from McKinley Wright’s star play. Eli Parquet was probably the best non-Kin backcourt player, making plays on defense, creating action off the drive and even hitting a couple threes (one was banked in, but still). Maddox Daniels was probably the worst as he’s looking like a shooting specialist who can’t do much else.
  • It was a surprise that Nique Clifford didn’t play until there was 3 minutes left. We expected him to compete for major minutes off the bench, or be a depth piece at the very least. There could be something we don’t know, or maybe he’s not ready yet.