CORVALLIS, Ore. — After suffering their first two-game road sweep in Pac-12 Conference play, the Colorado Buffaloes have abruptly moved from the league's pack of front-runners to a spot "in the muck," according to head coach Tad Boyle.
The silver lining of that discouraging shift? The muck isn't the death knell for NCAA tournament hopes in a league as loaded and balanced as the Pac-12.
"We're back in the muck," Boyle said. "We're 6-5 (in the league). We're a mediocre, average Pac-12 team. Which this year is a pretty good team because our league is pretty darn good. We know that if you don't play well in this league you're going to get beat, and we found that out Thursday against Oregon and we found that out Saturday against Oregon State.
"We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves. We're not going to hang our heads. We're going to get back to work. We've got to fight and scratch and claw ... that's all you can do."
CU hosts the Washington schools next weekend, beginning with a date against Washington State on Thursday. The Buffaloes will begin the week with the sixth spot in the Pac-12 regardless of Sunday's result between Oregon and Utah, given Utah's previous victory at CU. Four of the remaining seven regular-season games will be at home, meaning there is still plenty of time to pad the credentials of a Buffaloes team that entered Sunday still slotted at 25th in the NCAA's RPI rankings.
"Right now, after a tough loss, we can look at it that we were in the game at the end," sophomore forward Tory Miller said. "We've got seven games left in the regular season. There's not really anything much more that needs to be said. We know we've got seven games left. We've got to work on turnovers first and everything else will take care of itself."
Boyle shuffled the lineup on Saturday at Oregon State in hopes of curtailing the team's turnover woes, giving the typically sure-handed Xavier Talton his first start of the season.
The move played to mixed reviews. Talton was a key component of the Buffs' second-half comeback attempt, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers immediately after halftime and adding another just before the shot clock buzzer that tied the game with 1 minute, 54 seconds remaining.
However, after not committing more than two turnovers in any game all season, Talton matched a career-with high five turnovers against the Beavers.
"The thought process was you put two guards out there that handle the ball pretty well, and you're going to do better in that (turnover) category," Boyle said. "Obviously it wasn't the smartest coaching move I've ever made because it didn't work. But that was the thought process."
George King made just 6-of-25 shots on the two-game road trip. ... Miller continued his recent surge by making 7-of-12 shots on the trip. ... With three more turnovers on Saturday, guard Josh Fortune has averaged four per game over the past four games. ...Wesley Gordon's double-double on Saturday (13 points, 11 rebounds) was his third of the season and eighth of his career. He recorded a 12-point, 14-rebound effort in CU's previous game against OSU last month.