CU men's basketball preview: Washington State
MATCHUP: Washington State Cougars (9-14, 1-10 Pac-12 Conference) at Colorado Buffaloes (17-7, 6-5).
GAME TIME: Thursday, 8 p.m, Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: Radio — 760 AM; TV — Pac-12 Networks.
COACHES: Washington State — Ernie Kent, second season (22-32, 347-286 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, sixth season (125-75, 181-141 overall).
LEADERS: Washington State — Scoring: F Josh Hawkinson, Jr., 15.9 ppg; Rebounding: Hawkinson, 11.0 rpg. Assists: G Ike Iroegbu, Jr., 3.8 apg. Colorado — Scoring: F/C Josh Scott, Sr., 16.7 ppg; Rebounding: Scott, 9.1 rpg; Assists: G Dom Collier, So., 3.2 apg.
NOTABLE: Washington State brings a nine-game losing streak to Boulder...Iroegbu hit 12-of-20 shots and torched the Buffs for 27 points in the teams' first meeting on Jan. 23...After committing 38 turnovers in two losses last week, CU might be encouraged about a turnaround against the Cougars. The Buffs matched a season-low with just six turnovers in the previous game against WSU...CU has won six of seven games against the Cougars since joining the Pac-12, including a 4-0 mark at home...George King, CU's second-leading scorer at 14.2 points per game, had averaged 17.5 points over six games before getting held to a season-low one point Saturday at Oregon State. King paced CU with 22 points at WSU last month.
Say this for Dom Collier. In what has been an up-and-down season, perhaps predictably, in his first year as the Colorado Buffaloes' No. 1 point guard, the sophomore already has mastered the art of having a short memory.
Each time Collier has suffered through a game that ranks among his worst of the season, invariably he has responded immediately with a solid stretch of play. It's a trait Collier hopes to continue this weekend as the Buffs begin a two-game home set against Washington State on Thursday night.
"I pretty much forget about it, because I can't do anything else about the bad game I just had," Collier said. "The main thing is you just have to shake it off and focus on the next one. I'm just focused on how to contribute to the team in order to get a win tomorrow."
Collier endured what arguably was his worst game of the season Saturday at Oregon State, committing eight turnovers in a turnover-plagued game that saw CU commit a season-most 24 overall.
Yet if recent history is any indication, expect Collier to bounce back this weekend. His previous season-high turnover count was six in a season-opening loss against nationally-ranked Iowa State. It took five games for Collier to commit six more. Collier has had just two other games with more than two turnovers, committing four against Northern Colorado on Nov. 29 and four against SMU on Dec. 23, and each time it took three games for Collier to match that total.
And even though Saturday at Oregon State was a turnover nightmare, Collier still has found ways to help CU even while under duress. He has matched a season-high with three steals in two of the past three games, including at OSU, and despite a rough Oregon road trip that saw him shoot 4-for-13 overall and 2-for-6 from 3-point range, Collier remains the Pac-12 Conference 3-point percentage leader at .478 (33-for-69).
"I'm not going to make excuses for Dom — eight turnovers is eight turnovers and he knows he has to play better than he played. Some of the turnovers were unforced," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "But I will say this about Dom Collier — he got absolutely mugged in the lane. He should have shot a minimum of 12 free throws against Oregon State, and he wasn't getting the whistle. He got literally mugged and tackled a couple times.
"Some nights the calls aren't going to go your way. I think that's a great lesson for him to learn. I think that got in his head a little bit. It really frustrated him a little bit. And rightfully so."
Thursday's battle could feature an entirely different complexion than the teams' previous matchup, a 75-70 road win for the Buffs on Jan. 23. CU's Josh Scott and the Cougars' Josh Hawkinson, both finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabaar Award as college basketball's top big man, are battling ankle injuries.
Scott missed the second half of the OSU contest and remains questionable for Thursday. Hawkinson, who recorded a double-double last month against the Buffs but was held to a 3-for-9 night from the floor, missed WSU's previous game against Arizona State. Yet the Cougars did receive reinforcements in that contest with the return of Valentine Izundu.
The 6-foot-10 Izundu missed eight games, including the previous CU contest, due to a foot injury but tallied 10 points, seven rebounds, and three blocked shots in his return Saturday.
"He's a rim-protector and a (6-10) shot-blocker," Boyle said. "Ten and seven, those are pretty good numbers for your first game back. He's a load, so we have to be ready for him as well."