CU men's basketball: Portland Pilots
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (5-2) at Portland Pilots (4-2).
GAME TIME: Saturday, 8 p.m. MST, Chiles Center, Portland Ore.
BROADCAST: Radio — 850 AM; TV — None.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 7th season (135-82, 191-148 overall); Portland — Terry Porter, 1st season (4-2 at Portland and overall).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G Derrick White, Sr., 14.1 ppg; Rebounding: F Wesley Gordon, Sr., 9.4 rpg; Assists: 3.6 apg. Portland — G Alec Wintering, Sr., 22.8 ppg; Rebounding: F Gabe Taylor, Jr., 7.2 rpg; Assists: 6.7 apg.
NOTABLE: Four CU players scored at least 13 points in last year's home win against Portland. George King led the way with 18 points and Josh Fortune scored 17...Last year's contest was the first between the programs...This is CU's first true road game, though the Buffs went 1-1 early last week in neutral court games against Notre Dame and Texas...The Buffs went 6-11 away from home last year and ended last season with five consecutive losses in true road games...CU returns home to host No. 7 Xavier on Wednesday.
There is a well-kept basketball secret in Portland. His name is Alec Wintering.
The Colorado men's basketball team will attempt to shake off its bitter 14-point loss against the Buffaloes' rivals from Colorado State on Saturday night at the University of Portland, but in order to do so they must contain one of the top under-the-radar players in the nation in Wintering, the Pilots' point guard.
Portland finished just 12-20 a year ago, including a 22-point loss at the Coors Events Center. Yet under first-year coach Terry Porter, the former NBA star with the Portland Trailblazers, the Pilots are off to a solid 4-2 start. The play of Wintering has been a big reason why.
"I know Portland has one of the best point guards on the west coast that nobody has heard about," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "Very, very good player. The message for our team is we can't feel sorry for ourselves. Portland isn't going to feel sorry for us.
"They're licking their chops, a Pac-12 team coming into their gym. We've got to regroup. We've got to bounce back. We're tested right now."
Wintering is coming off a career-high 36-point performance against Cal State-Northridge, and his average of 6.7 assists per game ranks ninth in the nation. With a scoring average of 22.8, Wintering and Washington all-everything freshman Markelle Fultz are the only players in the nation who rank in the top 25 in both scoring and assists.
The Buffs did a commendable job against Wintering last year, holding him to nine points on a 1-for-7 mark from the field, but CU also will hope to correct some of the shooting woes that have thwarted the club in the season's opening weeks.
While Boyle has continually expressed concern about the mental focus and toughness of his squad, he also is waiting patiently for a Buffs squad full of capable shooters to regain their touch.
Last year, CU led the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage (.389) and free throw percentage (.734). Though the Buffs' current .354 mark on 3-pointers isn't terribly far off last year's pace, CU has put together two boggling long-range efforts at home, going 3-for-19 against CSU and 3-for-18 earlier this year against Seattle. Erase a 13-for-21 performance on threes in the season-opener against Sacramento State, and the Buffs have shot just .301 on 3-pointers over the past six games (32-for-106).
CU's struggles at the free throw line have been equally perplexing, with the Buffs taking a .699 mark into Saturday's game. CU has gone 34-for-58 (.586) over the past two games, with several players shooting below their career norms. Derrick White, for instance, compiled an .828 free throw percentage during a three-year career at UCCS but has shot .735 in his first seven games with the Buffs.
"We've had nights where we're really, really hot, and we've had nights where we're really, really cold," Boyle said. "We have to understand that when the three isn't going, we have to get the ball inside."