McKinley Wright IV grabbed a rebound, sprinted down the court and hit a layup while drawing a foul from a Georgetown defender.
Colorado’s senior leader smiled and pointed to his parents in the stands. His father, McKinley Wright III, pointed back and pounded his chest.
Oh, how sweet was this moment for Wright, his family and the Buffaloes.
Wright’s three-point play with 16 minutes, 43 seconds to go in the second half on Saturday gave the Buffs a 30-point lead over Georgetown in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They would go on to win in a rout, 96-73, at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, and earn a spot in Monday’s second round, against Florida State.
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Jabari Walker, McKinley Wright power CU Buffs past Georgetown in NCAA Tournament
One of CU’s all-time greatest players, Wright finally got an opportunity to play in The Big Dance on Saturday. The senior had waited his entire life for this moment, and said he wouldn’t crack under pressure.
“There’s no nerves for me,” he said this week. “I’m just going to go out there and be me. Try to make plays for my teammates and myself. Be aggressive on the defensive end. And just accept the challenge. This opportunity is here, and I’m not going to take it for granted. I’m going to leave it all out there.”
Just about everything went right for the fifth-seeded Buffs, who hit a season-high in 3-pointers (16), racked up their most assists (27) in about 12 years and pretty much dominated the Big East Tournament-champion Hoyas in every way.
It was all led by Wright, who finished with 12 points, five rebounds and 13 assists while doing his usual work on defense. He also had the seventh turnover-free game of his career.
CU head coach Tad Boyle, who has spent the past four seasons praising the 6-foot guard from North Robbinsdale, Minn., came away impressed yet again.
“You could tell Georgetown’s defensive game plan, or at least part of it, was, when McKinley came off ball screens, to really make him play in a crowd, and not let him score the ball,” Boyle said. “When that’s happened before at times this year, McKinley has gotten frustrated. Tonight he didn’t. He just took what the defense gave him.
“Our bigs did a great job of rolling or popping, depending on the case, but McKinley did a terrific job of just being patient. … McKinley just played a really, really heady game from a ball screen read standpoint. It’s as good as he’s done all year long with his reads in the ball screen consistently and he didn’t get frustrated with his lack of scoring.”
Wright didn’t need to score much in this one, with Jabari Walker (24 points) and D’Shawn Schwartz (18 points) doing much of the damage, but it was another stellar outing for Wright.
“There’s so much (about him) that I don’t even realize yet, playing with him,” said Walker, a freshman. “I’ll probably see it next year. But, just having him initiate the offense, it just makes my job easy. I really don’t have to do too much. He just finds me when I’m open. When he shoots the ball, you don’t realize how many people are going up to block his shot, so that helps me get my offensive rebounds.
“Just keeping us in the right mentality, keeping us composed. He’s been in so many situations and his experience has carried this team. It’s just a blessing to have somebody like Kin and all the seniors that we have on his team, especially with it being my first year playing college basketball.”
Wright has been in a lot of situations, but never this one before Saturday. As he’s done throughout his career, however, Wright handled his first NCAA Tournament game with poise – and helped the Buffs dominate a game that many around the country thought they’d lose.
As Wright conducted a post-game interview on CBS, CU fans at Hinkle Fieldhouse chanted, “M-V-P!”
“This is for everybody that picked Georgetown to beat us,” Wright said on CBS. “It got to the point where I had to deactivate my Twitter account because so many people were sending me everybody’s picks across the country that Georgetown was going to win. That lit a (fire) under us.
“We were excited to come out today. It was all of our first time playing here. It was a joy. It was a pleasure.”
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