With so many talented players, the Colorado men's basketball team has full confidence in its offense against man-to-man defense.

The Buffaloes are still working on finding the confidence against a zone, though.

"We definitely like playing against man; we feel like we can score on anybody," CU junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. "We feel like we've got one of the best post players in the country (in Josh Scott). He can score 1-on-1 against anybody.

"We feel like man is easy. Zone is the hard one."

The No. 20 Buffs (12-2, 1-0 Pac-12) faced a zone all night on Thursday in a 64-58 win against Oregon State (8-5). That might be the only game in which the Buffs face a zone for 40 minutes, but they will certainly see it at times during the final 17 conference games.

"Apparently we're going to see a lot (of zone) with people trying to slow it down and people scared of getting in foul trouble," Dinwiddie said. "When teams look at us, they're going to say, 'It's going to be hard guarding them man, but we have a shot guarding them zone.' The more teams think that, the more we're going to see it. We just have to get more effective going against it."

Against Oregon State, the Buffs hit just 38.2 percent of their shots, and just 25 percent (5-for-20) from 3-point range.

A zone defense is designed to force an offense to shoot from the outside, while trying to limit the amount of touches inside. If the Buffs don't hit those outside shots, the defense can take away the inside by collapsing in the paint.


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At various times this year, CU has struggled against the zone, whether through a lack of movement from the players or lackluster shooting. The Buffs have also had some success against zone, though.

"We've proven to be a decent zone offense team at times," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "We just have to be more consistent. We had some possessions (against Oregon State) where we were really good; we just weren't consistently good."

Boyle said that when the Buffs didn't have good possessions Thursday, their lack of movement was an issue.

"Also, we were initiating it and staying too high out on the court," Boyle said. "We've got to get closer to the 3-point line. We were operating too far away from the basket for too long of a time."

Trying to find open shots far from hoop, the Buffs found themselves forcing some shots late to beat the shot clock.

"Late in the clock, we have to drive it," Boyle said. "We have to get the ball inside and get more penetrate-and-pitch opportunities."

Junior guard Askia Booker said Oregon State was a good test for CU, because the Beavers might have the best zone defense in the Pac-12.

"That's what they do and they're really, really good at it," Booker said.

Now, the Buffs hope to take the lessons they learned from Thursday and apply them to future games when their opponents decide to go to zone.

When CU is good against a zone, it's because forwards Josh Scott, Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson are scoring points inside.

Twice on Thursday, Gordon hit short jumpers that were huge shots in a close game. Dinwiddie said the redshirt freshman needs to do that more often.

"Wesley Gordon is a very good shooter and I think he needs to be a little more confident in taking that high post jumper because it'll help stretch out the zone more and then let you drop it down a little more effectively," Dinwiddie said.

Another key, of course, is the guards hitting from the outside. That was a key factor in CU's 75-72 win against Kansas on Dec. 7. Kansas is primarily a man-to-man team, but went zone at times, and CU burned the Jayhawks.

"When Kansas went zone, they were so worried about the jump shots that we were able to dump it down effectively between Josh and X (Johnson), and that was really good for our offense," Dinwiddie said.

The Buffs have proven they have the athletes to get the job done. Now the challenge will be to get the job done on a routine basis.

Notable

Freshman Tre'Shaun Fletcher missed Thursday's game with an injury, but the Buffs are hoping to have him available Sunday against No. 10 Oregon. "We'll see how he does the next couple of days," Boyle said. ... Sunday's game is scheduled for 3 p.m., and it will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.