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Colorado knocks off #17 Oregon, but it was no upset

McKinley Wright did everything in this win

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at Colorado Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes have still never lost at home to the Oregon Ducks. It was a crazy game with a wild ending, but the Buffs pulled off the win over their 17th-ranked opponents.

Colorado started the game aggressive. They wanted to slice into the lane, crash the offensive glass and outmuscle Oregon from there. It worked nicely for a bit, until Dana Altman mucked things up with a pressing 1-3-1 zone defense. The Ducks ambushed the ball handler and forced the Buffs into uncomfortable possessions.

That defense clearly bothered CU, not just because of that zone defense but also they have tremendous length closing out on shooters. The Buffs were looked scared to shoot the ball or attack off the dribble, because they knew the next defender was one long step away from contesting.

After twelve minutes of misery, the Buffs closed out the half on a high. Jeriah Horne and McKinley each made key shots to get their offense going in the final minutes. Somehow, someway the Buffs had a 33-31 lead despite shooting 38% from the field and just 2 of 14 on three-point attempts.

Colorado kept up that hot hand, going on a 14-2 run to take a 47-33 lead three minutes into the half. The Buffs missed just one shot in that stretch, and it was fast break layup that was followed up by an Eli Parquet put-back. If one had to nitpick, it’s that CU’s dominant runs go by so quickly that there’s always time for their opponent to answer back.

The Buffs tightened up their defense, but it was difficult to contain long-time villain Chris Duarte. He single-handedly kept the Oregon offense afloat with 17 second half points, as he was drilling jumpers and finishing tough looks inside. His work on the defensive end — 4 steals, 2 blocks and a few flops to draw offensive fouls — was critical in slowing down CU’s offense.

Three times the Buffs built a double-digit lead from which Oregon came back. D’Shawn Schwartz and Eli Parquet stepped up to build those leads with 18 points combined in the second half, but the Oregon press kept coming back to snatch it away. The Buffs could not figure it out to save their lives, made worse by the fact Oregon couldn’t miss a jumper towards the end of the game.

At the end of the day, though, one team had McKinley Wright and one team did not. He carried the Buffs down the stretch, broke the press when they needed him most, and helped secure the crucial home win. His 21 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists undersell just how good he was in this game.

CU moves to 8-3 on the season and 2-2 in conference play having finished up their toughest four-game stretch of the 2020/21 season. This was an A-tier win, their best of the season thus far, and probably the best home win they will have all season, if only because these are the two best teams in the Pac-12.

Colorado’s game against Oregon State was postponed, so their next game will be on the road against the Utah Utes on Monday (4:00 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). After that, they host California and Stanford at home, before traveling to Washington and Washington State. That’s four should-be wins, not including the Stanford game, so things are looking up for the Buffs.