On Thursday, when the Colorado Buffaloes finally picked up their first Pac-12 Conference victory against Oregon State, junior George King noted publicly afterward that he and his fellow starters needed to start games with the same infectious enthusiasm that was displayed by the reserves-turned-starters that night.
On Saturday King and the rest of CU's starters did just that, setting an early tone by knocking down the Buffs' first four 3-point attempts while attacking No. 10-ranked Oregon with a defensive energy they maintained throughout a 74-65 victory.
The result ended a school-record 17-game winning streak for Oregon.
"They handled the lineup shift the other night like men," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "I was really proud of them for that, both the starters and the reserves. Then tonight we flipped it back and everybody responded to that as well."
King started alongside Derrick White, Xavier Johnson, and Wesley Gordon — all three of whom had started every game this season before Thursday — in addition to junior guard Dom Collier.
While Thursday's dramatic shift in the lineup was conceived in part to send a message to a veteran group of starters that had carried the load through the first seven-game losing streak of Boyle's seven-season tenure, Saturday's return to form occurred with not only the regular starters playing with fresh inspiration, but with the reserves hitting the floor with renewed confidence.
Freshman guards Deleon Brown and Bryce Peters combined for just two points off the bench, but they once again provided solid defense while protecting the ball (no turnovers in 19 combined minutes). And senior Josh Fortune, a starter for the first 16 games of the season, put together one of his more efficient performances of the season despite scoring only two points, as he contributed four rebounds, two assists, and a blocked shot in just 13 minutes.
"For a guy who has gone what he has gone through, starting the first 16 games and now he's come off the bench, he's handled it well," Boyle said. "He's not pouted and sulked and felt sorry for himself. He just tries to play as well as he can when he's in there, and I thought he gave us good minutes tonight."
For much of the past two months, freshman Lucas Siewert has looked as if he might have been better served taking a redshirt season this year.
Yet starting with his first starting nod on Thursday against Oregon State and continuing in Saturday's upset victory against Oregon, Siewert has made his most meaningful contributions of the year.
After going 3-for-3 on 3-pointers in his CU debut in the season opener, Siewert went 2-for-16 over the next 19 games before knocking down his lone 3-point attempt against Oregon State. Siewert also added five rebounds against the Beavers in his first career start, grabbing four of them at the offensive end.
Siewert again provided a spark against Oregon, scoring five points in the first half and adding two rebounds, one assist, and no turnovers in 12 minutes. Once again Siewert connected on his only 3-point attempt, and he also tallied the first two made free throws of his career after entering the game with an 0-for-2 mark.
"Lucas has been practicing really well the last three weeks," Boyle said. "I would say since we got back from Christmas. He's really practiced well and started competing. He was terrific tonight.
"Lucas is just getting better and better and better. He's going to be a terrific player. I said that about both he and Bryce (Peters) and Deleon (Brown). Before it's all said and done they're going to have really good careers here at Colorado."
CU committed 11 turnovers in the first half against Oregon but had just one after halftime...The Buffs are 9-0 this season when holding their opponents under 70 points...With 10 points, Johnson moved past David Harrison for 15th-place on CU's all-time scoring list...Saturday's victory was CU's 15th against a ranked for in Boyle's seven-season tenure...King has made at least two 3-pointers in seven consecutive games after doing so just three times in the season's first 15 games.