LOS ANGELES — — Earlier this week, Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle said that the Buffaloes aren't focusing on their NCAA Tournament resume.
Yet, after Thursday's 92-74 loss at UCLA, even Boyle had to admit that his team can't let too many opportunities slip away down the stretch.
The loss dropped CU to 1-4 in Pac-12 road games and 1-6 when leaving the state to play. The Buffs (18-7, 7-5 Pac-12) have another road game Sunday at Southern Cal (10-14, 1-10).
"We have to bounce back, we have to have a short memory," Boyle said. "USC becomes a very critical game for us now because we've got to win some on the road coming down the stretch."
With six regular season games remaining, including four on the road, the Buffs need some resume-building wins, especially away from Coors Events Center.
Beating USC, which ranked No. 133 on realtimepri.com as of Thursday night, wouldn't be a major boost to CU's profile, but it is important for the Buffs to prove they can win away from Boulder.
CU's lone out-of-state win was a 71-70 overtime victory against Washington State in Spokane, Wash. It was a win, but the Buffs played poorly and Boyle said after that game that Washington State deserved the victory.
In addition to USC, the Buffs have road games against Utah (RPI No. 103), Stanford (No. 46) and California (No. 49).
Against UCLA, the Buffs took a 12-point lead in the first half. With the exception of a 24-point win at Air Force, that was CU's largest lead away from Boulder this season.
"It's a confidence booster," junior Askia Booker said of how CU played early on against UCLA. "I don't think we've ever played like that on the road, whether it be for a first half or a half at all. We're going to have to watch film and see what we did successfully and see where we took the turn to go downhill. It's all going to come down to learning from it."
As well as they played in gaining that lead, however, the Buffs were dismantled down the stretch. UCLA outscored them 71-41 during the final 25 minutes, 18 seconds.
So, while the early part of the game provided a reason for optimism, the Buffs realize they need a positive final result.
"We just have to be able to focus and play hard and come out with victories on the road and not just at home," he said.
Last year, CU was 4-5 in Pac-12 road games, going 4-2 in the final six.
Although the Buffs didn't play their best game against the Bruins, Boyle couldn't fault the fight in his team.
"Our fight and our competitiveness," Boyle said. "I thought that was good. We didn't lose to UCLA because we rolled over and we quit or we died."
Unfortunately for the Buffs, they've been fighting without some major weapons. Starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie is out for the year with a knee injury. Starting forward Wesley Gordon has missed two games with a twisted ankle. And, key freshman Tre'Shaun Fletcher hasn't played in a month because of an injury to his left knee.
"When you're down three of your top eight guys in your rotation from when the season started, your margin for error goes down,' Boyle said.
Gordon and Fletcher are both on the trip, however, and could return to the court soon.
"They're on this road trip because they can get treatment from our trainer, they can do study hall with Mindy (Sclaro), our academic counselor who is with us on the trip, and they can hopefully get closer to playing," Boyle said.
UCLA went 11-for-22 from 3-point range Thursday, becoming the seventh team to hit at least 10 3-pointers against the Buffs this season.
During the last five games, CU opponents are a remarkable 52-for-118 (44.1 percent) from beyond the arc.
For the season, CU opponents are 200-for-527 (38.0 percent) from 3-point range.
In Thursday's loss, Booker became just the fifth player in CU history to record at least 12 assists in a game. Since 1986, only Booker and Jose Winston (twice) have had that many assists for the Buffs. Winston and Jay Humphries (four times) are the only players to do it more than once. ... Booker now has 204 career assists, ranking 24th in CU history.