CU men's basketball preview: Oregon State

MATCHUP: Oregon State Beavers (4-16, 0-7 Pac-12 Conference) at Colorado Buffaloes (10-10, 0-7).

GAME TIME: Thursday, 6:30 p.m., Coors Events Center.

BROADCAST: TV — Fox Sports 1; Radio — 760 AM.

COACHES: Oregon State — Wayne Tinkle, 3rd season (40-43, 198-134 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 7th season (140-90, 196-156 overall).

LEADERS: Oregon State — Scoring: G Stephen Thompson, So., 15.5 ppg; Rebounding: F Drew Eubanks, So., 8.5 rpg; Assists: Thompson, 3.6 apg. Colorado — G Derrick White, Sr., 16.5 ppg; Rebounding: F Wesley Gordon, Sr., 8.0 rpg; Assists: White, 4.3 apg.

NOTABLE: The Buffs have won eight of nine games against OSU in Boulder...In the past three halves CU's opponents have gone 20-for-39 on 3-pointers...Senior Xavier Johnson needs seven points to surpass Jay Humphries for 16th-place on CU's all-time scoring list. In the past six games Johnson has shot .577 (45-for-78)...Reserve forward Tory Miller has shot .633 (19-for-30) during Pac-12 play...White has averaged 19.5 points over the past four games, yet has struggled to a 3-for-20 mark on 3-pointers in that span...The Buffs' homestand continues Saturday night against No. 10 Oregon (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

Perhaps the struggling Oregon State Beavers will offer just the sort of remedy needed for the struggling Colorado Buffaloes.


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If not, look out below.

On Thursday, the Buffs host Oregon State in a matchup of the only winless teams within Pac-12 Conference play. They also are two of only three teams in the nation among the top six college basketball conferences (the Power 5 plus the Big East) that began the week without a win in league play.

To say the Buffs need a win is an understatement of epic proportions. Yet with a visit from No. 10 Oregon looming on Saturday night, plus another tough road trip on the horizon for a team that has lost 10 consecutive road games within the league, netting a win on Thursday is paramount if the Buffs wish to follow through on their belief they can still work their way out of the Pac-12 cellar.

Despite limping home with the program's first 0-7 mark in league play in 24 years, coach Tad Boyle again expressed optimism based on how his players responded in practice this week. Whether that finally lifts the Buffs into the win column remains to be seen.

"I've said this all year — this is not a team that dogs it in practice," Boyle said. "I've been around teams that dog it in practice. This is not one of those. We don't dog it in games either, we just haven't been able to finish it off. I like where we're at in terms of our carriage and body language in practice. The competitive spirit certainly is there.

"The one thing I know is we haven't lost to this team. It's all about what we can do (Thursday) night at 6:30."

Though Oregon State sports the same winless mark in the Pac-12 as the Buffs, the Beavers have struggled even more greatly in part due to crippling injuries the team has battled through all season.

Coming off the program's first NCAA Tournament berth in 26 years, the Beavers lost Stephen Thompson Jr. to a foot injury in the season's second game. By the time he returned from a six-game absence the Beavers also were without their best all-around player, sophomore Tres Tinkle. The son of head coach Wayne Tinkle suffered a broken right wrist against Fresno State on Nov. 25. He has yet to return and is expected to remain sidelined against the Buffs.

Without Tinkle, the Beavers rank last in the league in scoring (63.2 points per game), free throw percentage (.643), assists per game (12.3) and turnover margin (minus-3.55). They also rank 11th in 3-point percentage (.337) and overall field goal percentage (.433). The team's two best players, Tinkle and Thompson, only played together in the season opener. In addition to a seven-game losing streak that equals that of the Buffs, the Beavers have lost 12 of their past 13 games.

Simply put, if the Buffs can't beat a shorthanded Oregon State at home, they won't be favored against any other team remaining on their schedule.

"Coach really did a good job of emphasizing defense (this week), and that's what we need right now," CU senior Xavier Johnson said. "We've just got to defend. We're doing great offensively but we have to do better defensively. I think we'll get those close wins."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07