Behind the play of its All-American point guard McKinley Wright IV, a veteran Colorado squad broke open a tight game against Kansas State with an early second-half surge to hand the Wildcats a 76-58 loss in the final game of the Little Apple Classic on Friday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
Wright, a Pac-12 First Team and All-Defensive Team selection a year ago, led all scorers with 24 points on 10-of-16 field goals, including a stretch of 10 points in a 20-8 run that turned a 44-42 lead with 13:52 to play into a 64-50 advantage with just 7 minutes to play. He also had a team-high 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 1 steal in 39 minutes.
The Buffaloes (2-0) connected on 55.2 percent (16-of-29) of their field goals after halftime, including 72.2 percent (13-of-18) from inside the 3-point line, to flip a 31-30 halftime deficit into a decisive victory. This came after shooting just 41.7 percent (10-of-24) in the first half, in which, they trailed by as many 13 points.
The young Wildcats (0-2), which started a lineup of just one senior (Mike McGuirl) to go with three sophomores (Kaosi Ezeagu, Antonio Gordon and DaJuan Gordon) and a true freshman (Nijel Pack) compared to one for the Buffaloes that had three seniors and two juniors brought the energy early, using a 12-0 run to take 22-9 advantage with 9:37 remaining in the first half.
However, flagrant-1 technical on freshman Davion Bradford at the 8:40 mark changed the momentum, as Colorado rattled off 14 points in a row to take 23-22 lead with 4:52 to play. A 3-pointer by McGuirl ended the run with 4:20 before halftime and helped K-State regain the lead at 31-30 at the break.
The Buffaloes were the aggressor coming out of halftime, scoring 7 in a row to take a 37-31 lead at the 17:42 mark. Another McGuirl 3-pointer capped a 6-0 spurt by the Wildcats that tied it up at 37-all, but 3 consecutive free throws by senior Maddox Daniels helped give the team an edge and a string of 12 of the next 17 points that forced a timeout by head coach Bruce Weber with 13:03 to play.
Colorado seemed to answer any type of K-State run, as the Buffaloes used their experience to push the lead to 18 points to win both games in the Little Apple Classic.
Wright was joined in double figures by Daniels, who scored 10 points, while 3 others (Eli Parquet, Jeriah Horne and Jabari Walker) all finished with 9 points.
Pack was the lone Wildcat in double figures with 12 points on 4-of-8 field goals, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, in just 26 minutes of action after playing less than 8 minutes in the first half due to injury. Three other Wildcats – Ezeagu, Antonio Gordon and McGuirl – all added 8 points each.
K-State connected on 44.7 percent (21-of-47) from the field, including 38.5 percent (10-of-26) from 3-point range.