CU men's basketball preview: Arizona
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (10-5, 0-2 Pac-12 Conference) at No. 17 Arizona Wildcats (14-2, 3-0).
GAME TIME: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network. Radio — 850 AM.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 7th season (140-85, 196-151 overall); Arizona — Sean Miller, 8th season (202-62, 322-110 overall).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G Derrick White, Sr., 16.3 ppg; Rebounding: F Wesley Gordon, Sr., 7.9 rpg; Assists: White, 4.1 apg. Arizona — Scoring: F Lauri Markkanen, Fr., 15.5 ppg; Rebounding: Markkanen, 7.4 rpg; Assists: G Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Jr., 5.6 apg.
NOTABLE: Arizona has played all season without guard Allonzo Trier, a Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection last year after averaging 14.8 points, due to a suspension that still has not been explained. Trier is expected to return this season but remained sidelined during Arizona's home win Thursday against Utah...The Wildcats have won 14 consecutive home games...With only eight rebounds in the past two games, Gordon is on the brink of losing the team lead in rebounding for the first time this season to George King. Though mired in a shooting slump, King has averaged 7.6 rebounds over the past seven games, seven games, raising his season average to 7.0...The Buffs will get second-leading scorer Xavier Johnson back in the mix after he was ejected late in the first half of Thursday's loss at Arizona State.
TEMPE, Ariz. — It's unlucky number seven for the Colorado men's basketball team.
After a loss at Arizona State Thursday night that was at once exhilarating, encouraging, and, ultimately, once again disappointing for the Buffaloes, CU is facing the prospect of breaking a couple of unsettling streaks in a daunting setting.
The Buffs have now lost seven consecutive road games in Pac-12 Conference play. They also have gone seven straight games without reaching their game-by-game rebounding goal, an aspect that always has been a pillar of coach Tad Boyle's program.
Now CU is faced with the task of attempting to break those streaks against No. 17 Arizona on Saturday night, or face the harsh reality of starting 0-3 in league play.
"(Arizona State) is the seventh game in a row where we haven't hit our defensive number, which is plus-8 against the other team," Boyle said. "So it's kind of fitting that that's how we lost. We're not the Colorado rebounding teams that we've had in the past. I've mentioned to the media, I've mentioned to our players, I've mentioned to our staff that at some point it's going to cost us a game. (Thursday) it cost us a game."
Boyle was referring to the deciding play at Arizona State when Derrick White, who otherwise did everything he could to single-handedly carry the Buffs to victory, was unable to box out ASU's Tra Holder during a rebounding opportunity in the waning moments. With CU clinging to a one-point lead, a 3-point attempt from ASU's Torian Graham went awry, but Holder was able to grab the offensive rebound. White fouled him on the put-back attempt, and Holder's two free throws with 1.6 seconds left sent the Buffs to their seventh consecutive road loss in the Pac-12.
The Buffs opened Pac-12 play with a loss at Utah on Sunday and lost their final five true road games in the league last year, though CU did post a neutral-court win in that span against Washington State in the conference tournament.
"Regroup. Refocus. We know we have to play a top-25 team," forward Tory Miller said. "We've got a tough challenge and we know that. Arizona is always a tough game. I'm sure they want to get back at us for last year."
While the Buffs posted a 36-32 rebounding advantage at ASU, including 13 offensive rebounds they turned into a 24-14 edge in second-chance points, CU has not reached its plus-8 marker since recording a 38-28 rebounding lead at Portland on Dec. 3. CU's leading rebounder, senior Wesley Gordon, posted only four rebounds against both ASU and Utah, and now the Buffs will be challenged to net their first Pac-12 win at a venue where they haven't won since joining the Pac-12 and have lost six consecutive games overall.
"This is where you're tested," Boyle said. "We've lost two in a row here on the road and we knew it wasn't going to be easy. We've got to bounce back. You don't get these opportunities often. We had one shot against Arizona State, and now we've got one shot at Arizona and that's all we get this year based on the schedule. All you can ask for in life is an opportunity and we've got a great one and a great challenge because Arizona is a terrific program, and obviously with great players and a great coach. We just have to go let it all hang out."