CU men's hoops preview
TODAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (20-9, 9-7 Pac-12) visit the Stanford Cardinal (18-10, 9-7) in a 7 p.m. MDT game at Maples Pavilion.
BROADCAST: Radio -- KOA (850 AM), with Mark Johnson on play-by-play and Scott Wilke providing color commentary. TV - ESPN2, with Dave Pasch and Bill Walton on the call.
STORYLINES: CU has lost two games in a row and looks to avoid its first three-game skid in more than three years. ... The Buffs lost at Utah, 75-64, on Saturday. Josh Scott had 17 points in the loss. ... Stanford has also lost two in a row, getting swept by the Arizona schools last week. ... This is the first and only regular season meeting between the teams this season. ... Both teams are still in the hunt for a top-four spot in the Pac-12 standings and a first-round bye in the conference tournament. ... Stanford is 5-1 in its last six home games, the only loss being a 60-57 defeat against then-No. 1 Arizona. ... CU is 2-5 in Pac-12 road games, beating 11th-place Washington State and 12th-place USC. ...
KEY STAT: CU's Askia Booker has made just 28.6 percent of his shots (24 of 84) in Pac-12 road games, including 4-for-26 (15.4 percent) from 3-point range. That's a dramatic different from his numbers at home, where he shoots 43.5 percent overall and 39.4 percent from 3-point range. The Buffs need Booker's numbers to look more like they do in Boulder.
COACHES: Tad Boyle is 89-47 in his fourth season at CU and 145-113 for his career. Johnny Dawkins is 112-84 in his sixth season at Stanford and for his career.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- G Xavier Talton, 6-2, So. (4.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.7 apg); G Askia Booker, 6-2, Jr. (14.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg); F Dustin Thomas, 6-7, Fr. (4.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg); F Xavier Johnson, 6-7, So. (11.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg); F Josh Scott, 6-10, So. (14.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg). Stanford - G Chasson Randle, 6-2, Jr. (18.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.3 apg); G/F Anthony Brown, 6-6, Jr. (13.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.1 apg); F Josh Huestis, 6-7, Sr. (11.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg); F Dwight Powell, 6-10, Sr. (14.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.6 apg); C Stefan Nastic, 6-11, Jr. (6.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg).
SERIES: Stanford leads the all-time series 9-5, including 4-1 at Stanford. CU has won the last two meetings, including on Feb. 27, 2013, at Stanford, 65-63.
UP NEXT: CU will visit California on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. MDT.
Askia Booker is often in the gym working on his game.
With his team facing a crucial week, however, the Colorado junior is especially determined.
"These are two of the biggest games of the season, especially or me," Booker said. "I haven't played well in the past two games. I'm going to come out and play my butt off. I owe it to my team. Me being the leader of this team, I owe it to them. At this point in time, I'm going to pick my stuff up and hopefully everybody can follow my lead."
CU (20-9, 9-7 Pac-12) is riding a two-game losing streak as it heads out on the road to face Stanford (18-10, 9-7) on Wednesday night. The Buffs face California (18-11, 9-7) on Saturday.
Those three teams are tied for fourth place in the Pac-12 standings. The top four teams earn a first-round bye for the Pac-12 Tournament.
"This is a chance to either do or die," Booker said. "Hopefully everybody on the team notices that and they relish the moment when the time comes."
CU head coach Tad Boyle said Wednesday's game is another big opportunity for the Buffs. The Feb. 22 game against Arizona and last Saturday's game at Utah were opportunities, too, and the Buffs lost those opportunities.
"Stanford is a great opportunity Wednesday night," he said. "I hope it's not another opportunity lost."
Booker believes he's the key to making sure the Buffs take advantage of the opportunity.
The junior guard played exceptionally well for six games in a row, but struggled against Arizona and Utah. He's averaged just 7.0 points on 5-for-22 shooting (22.7 percent) the past two games. He hasn't made a 3-pointer in three consecutive games, and finished with four turnovers against Utah.
"I just think he's pressing a little bit," Boyle said. "He's trying to do maybe a little bit too much. If anything Ski has been a victim of is trying to do too much by himself and not relying enough on his teammates to help him."
Booker said he doesn't necessarily think he's trying to do too much, but he knows he hasn't played well and that it has to change.
"If I don't play well, my team doesn't win, or if we do it might be a close game and we squeak one out," he said. "When I play well, I think that's the difference.
"It's about my team and getting them involved and having them making shots and getting stops on the defensive and rebounding the heck out of the ball."
Booker said Arizona and Utah both did a great job of denying him the ball, but that he's worked hard on his game this week to overcome that.
"I'm prepared for these two upcoming games," he said.
Booker and Boyle hope everyone in a CU uniform is prepared. The Buffs have proven that when they are prepared, they're capable of playing extremely well. Recent wins against Washington and Arizona State were two of the most impressive wins of the season for CU, but they've been followed by disappointing losses.
"On the floor, we're just not consistent enough," Boyle said." We've shown that we can be a really good team. We've shown that we're a cohesive bunch; we're just not consistent."
CU has not lost three in a row since a four-game skid from Jan. 18-29, 2011 - Boyle's first season on the job.
"We have pretty good players, man," Booker said. "They can play a lot of places in the NCAA. It just comes down to us having that will. Arizona, they might not shoot the ball well every night, but they have that will to defend and they know they're going to get stops. That might be the slight difference is the will. If we can have that in these two games on the road, I think we're very capable.
"We need to believe in ourselves and believe in one another."