CU men's basketball preview: Oregon State
MATCHUP: Oregon State Beavers (11-3, 9-2 Pac-12 Conference) at Colorado Buffaloes (12-4, 1-2 Pac-12).
GAME TIME: Wednesday, 9 p.m., Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: Radio — 760; TV — ESPNU.
COACHES: Oregon State — Wayne Tinkle, second season (28-17, 186-108 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, sixth season (120-72, 176-138 overall).
LEADERS: Oregon State — Scoring: G Gary Payton II, Sr., 17.1 ppg; Rebounding: Payton, 8.3 rpg; Assists: Payton, 5.4 apg. Colorado — Scoring: F Josh Scott, Sr., 17.4 ppg; Rebounding: Scott, 9.6 rpg; Assists: G Dom Collier, So., 3.1 apg.
NOTABLE: CU leads the all-time series 11-5 and has gone 7-1 against the Beavers at home.... Scott recorded only four points and three rebounds in the Buffs' regular-season loss against OSU last year but bounced back to produce 16 points and 14 rebounds as CU eliminated the Beavers from the Pac-12 Conference tournament. ... An above average 3-point shooting team through nonconference play, the Buffs have shot just .280 (14-for-50) from long range in three league games.
A week ago, the onus was on Josh Scott to step to the forefront defensively in a big-time post battle against Utah 7-footer Jakob Poeltl.
On Wednesday night, it will take a team effort from the Colorado Buffaloes to slow down one of the Pac-12 Conference's most complete all-around players.
Following a wrenching come-from-ahead loss against Utah, CU will look to get back on track as league play continues against Oregon State on Wednesday at the Coors Events Center (9 p.m., ESPNU). Topping the Buffs' list of defensive priorities will be to slow down OSU senior guard Gary Payton II, who has led the 11-3 Beavers to their best start since the 1989-90 season.
That '89-90 team was led by Payton's future NBA All-Star father and marked the last time OSU reached the NCAA tournament, a drought Payton II is hoping to break this season.
"He's such an exceptional rebounder and a great athlete," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "He's one of those guys who is a potential triple-double guy. He can score, he can rebound, and he can pass, too. He's a much-improved passer than years past. His game continues to develop.
"He's as good a guard as there is in our league."
As the only player in the nation averaging at least 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and 2.5 steals, Payton will present a nightmare of a matchup problem for CU. Expect the usual wing rotation of George King, George Fletcher and Tre'Shaun Fletcher to take turns matching up with a player who leads Oregon State in scoring (17.1 points per game) and leads the Pac-12 in steals per game (2.5).
While none of the other expected starters for the Beavers averages more than 8.3 points a game, Boyle singled out freshmen reserves Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson as particular concerns for the Buffs. Those two players are averaging a combined 19.8 points off the bench for Oregon State.
"I think No. 1, their depth is much better this year," Boyle said. "The two freshmen, guards Thompson and Tinkle, are very, very capable players. They come off the bench as freshmen, but really they're playing starters' minutes. Behind Payton they're their most efficient offensive players, at least in league play. It's not that (starters Malcolm) Duvivier and Langston Morris-Walker aren't threats, because they are, but the guys coming off the bench are really threats."
CU will be desperate for a win to still try to take advantage of the final three-game homestand of the season after Friday's late meltdown against Utah. Oregon State has recorded just one win in eight games all-time in Boulder, but the Beavers went 2-1 at home in their first three league games. That ledger includes a six-point win against a Cal team that dominated CU in its Pac-12 opener on Jan. 1.
"Play defense and rebounding. That's it," CU redshirt sophomore George King said. "We have to try and slow (Payton) down as much as possible. Every game is almost a must-win. But with the situation we're sitting on right now, this is definitely a must-win."