BOULDER, Colo. – Washington State dug a hole that was just a little too deep.
The Cougars fell behind by 26 points to the Colorado Buffaloes and cut the deficit to five in the second half before losing 82-73 on Thursday night.
“We changed lineups. We put more toughness on the floor, we got back into the game, and then we got into a great rhythm,” Cougars coach Ernie Kent said.
“It’s very difficult to get down by 26 to any Pac-12 team and think you’re going to come back, but we were right there with seven minutes to go.”
But after the Cougars closed to within five points Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV had 10 of his 17 points during a late run that put the game away for the Buffaloes.
The Buffaloes (12-7, 4-3 Pac-12) have won four of five conference games after dropping two in Oregon to start the season. Colorado has wins over Arizona and Arizona State and UCLA.
“Tonight was very important to our team to keep that momentum going and get above .500 in the league,” Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said. “Now it’s a separation game on Saturday (when Colorado plays Washington).”
Viont’e Daniels tied his career best with 18 points and Carter Skaggs scored all 17 of his points in the second half when the Cougars cut a 26-point lead to five.
Washington State (9-9, 1-5) couldn’t build on its 78-53 win over Cal last weekend. The Cougars hit 53.6 percent from 3-point range in the 25-point victory over the Bears but started cold from long range until catching fire late in the game.
The Buffaloes led by 15 at halftime and opened the second half hitting three 3-pointers to extend the lead to 55-32 with 15:54 left. A free throw by Lucas Siewert gave Colorado a 58-32 lead with 15:04 left, but Washington State rallied to make it close.
“Just a lack of defense, lack of concentration and effort,” Wright said. “We know they’re great 3-point shooters and we held them to five in the first half but they got 10 in the second half.”
Down 21, the Cougars went on an 18-2 run to get within 63-58. Colorado went without a basket for 5:26 before King ended the drought and sparked a 12-0 that put it away.
There was a moment of silence observed for Buffaloes lacrosse player Julia Sarcona, who died in a car accident on Saturday, and Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who committed suicide Tuesday.
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