Buffs advance to Paradise Jam championship game by defeating Drake, 86-81

Senior forward Tory Miller-Steward dunks the ball to score the first points of the game at the Coors Events Center. Nov. 10, 2017 (Nigel Amstock/CU Independent)

The Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team stayed perfect on Saturday night, beating Drake in the second round of the Paradise Jam tournament, 86-81. The Buffs advance to the championship round and will face Mercer on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m.

Colorado comes off a 70-69 victory over Quinnipiac in the first round of the tournament — the winning shot coming off the hands of freshman guard McKinley Wright IV.

Wright IV eventually fouled out late in the second half, but was again the hero for CU, as he led the team with 21 points. He was overall very effective from the field, going 9-of-12. The floor general on Saturday, Wright IV’s nine assists were also a team-high.

The Buffs got off to a hot start thanks to senior forward Tory Miller-Stewart, who within about two and a half minutes, had scored five of the Buffaloes’ seven points.

A shot from long range by senior guard George King put Colorado up 12-4 at the 15:38 mark. The Buffs maintained control from there, as a jumper from King made the score 16-6 a few minutes later.

Miller-Stewart made a layup with eight minutes left in the first half which boosted the Buffaloes to their biggest lead of the game at that point. Drake trailed 27-13.

The Bulldogs went on a 6-0 run towards the end of the first half, lowering their deficit to 33-25. By halftime, the Buffaloes held a 39-31 lead.

Junior guard Namon Wright led CU with nine points at the half while the team shot an impressive 52 percent from the floor. On the day Colorado made 31-of-55 shots, good for a 56.4 percent make rate.

Less impressive was the Buffs’ three-point conversion rate, which at the end of the game was a measly 23.5 percent on 4-of-17 shooting.

The Buffs started the second half strong, building their lead back up to the double digits. Eventually the team took a 17-point lead thanks to a shot from beyond the arc by sophomore guard Deleon Brown. This put Colorado up 52-35 with a bit over 17 minutes left to play.

The next 10 minutes saw the Bulldogs claw their way back into the game. With just under nine minutes to go, the Buffaloes’ lead had shriveled to 59-54.

The ensuing four minutes was a dogfight. Drake repeatedly came to within one point of the Buffs, although they never took the lead. Wright IV snagged a rebound in the offensive zone and capitalized on it with a layup that gave CU some breathing room and a 67-62 lead with 5:19 left in the game.

Drake threatened once more, coming within three again. But from there, the Buffs buckled down and held onto the lead, eventually going up 77-67 thanks to a three-pointer from Wright IV at the 3:13 mark.

The Bulldogs resorted to the foul-palooza technique as time wore down late in the game. The Buffs’ lead was too great and they were making the free throws granted to them. Drake’s second half rally fell short and Colorado will now play for the Paradise Jam  championship on Sunday.

Wright was next on the team with 19 points, shoot 9-of-11 from the free throw line. King and Miller-Stewart were the other two Buffs who scored in double digits. The latter contributed 11 while staying completely out of foul trouble in the game while King added 14 himself in the win.

Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at justin.guerriero@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.

Justin Guerriero

Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero is a city boy from Pittsburgh, PA, who fell in love with the mountains upon touring CU Boulder for the first time prior to his freshman year. He is a diehard Pittsburgh sports fan and covers whatever needs to be covered at the CUI. Justin is a junior majoring in broadcast production with minors in history and communication. Follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo

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