What went right: Wholesale changes to CU's starting lineup provided a spark, and the Buffs finished 12-for-22 on 3-pointers.
What went wrong: CU was outrebounded 32-31. The Buffs also went just 15-for-31 on free throws while allowing Oregon State to shoot .549 from the floor.
Star of the game: George King. Coming off the bench for just the second time this year, King went 4-for-8 on 3-pointers and finished with a team-leading 24 points.
What's next: The Buffs continue their homestand with a difficult challenge against No. 10 Oregon Saturday night (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
After his Colorado Buffaloes squandered a 17-point lead early in the second half last week at Washington, there was a part of Tad Boyle that had seen enough of his usual starting lineup.
Boyle considered making wholesale changes a few nights later at Washington State but couldn't quite bring himself to make such a drastic move. That changed Thursday night.
Beginning the game with a lineup full of reserves, the Buffaloes finally ended the program's first 0-7 start in league play in 24 years, overcoming another poor defensive performance and woeful free throw shooting to post an 85-78 win against Oregon State in a battle between the Pac-12 Conference's two winless teams.
Four of the players in CU's starting lineup — Bryce Peters, Lucas Siewert, Tory Miller, and Thomas Akyazili — made their first starts of the season. All of them, alongside freshman Deleon Brown, made key contributions, with Peters going 3-for-3 on 3-pointers and finishing with a season-best 15 points.
"That move was more a way to honor and to reward the guys who come to practice every day that don't get the minutes and haven't gotten the starts," Boyle said. "Other guys have had their opportunities. My gut told me to do it against Washington State. I held off a game ... I've done it one other time in my coaching career at Northern Colorado.
"Not an indictment so much on the guys that had been starting, but more of the guys that haven't been, they deserved that opportunity. They deserved that chance. And I thought they handled it well."
The reserve-turned-starting unit built a modest lead before the first media timeout at the 15 minute, 5 second mark, with multiple players providing a spark. Akyazili matched a career-high with six assists, and his four assists on CU's first six baskets was one more than he had produced in the previous eight games combined.
Siewert recorded three rebounds in that opening 4:55 after posting just two in the previous six games. The freshman forward finished with five rebounds, with four of them occurring at the offensive end. And Peters' quick 2-for-3 start set the stage for his big night, which also included four rebounds, two assists, consecutive 3-pointers at a key juncture in the second half, and just one turnover in 23 minutes.
"I knew that the starters always get us off to a great start offensively, and I wanted to bring that same attention offensively to put some pressure on their defense as well," Peters said.
Despite the early spark from the reserves, Oregon State remained within two points with about four minutes remaining before CU reeled off eight consecutive points, a burst that included a 3-pointer by George King and two baskets from Miller. King turned in a spirited effort coming off the bench for just the second time this season, going 4-for-8 on 3-pointers and finishing with a team-leading 24 points.
That late surge was enough to overcome another unimpressive defensive effort from the Buffs. Oregon State entered the game averaging 56.6 points with a .397 field goal percentage in its previous seven Pac-12 games, with both marks counting as league-lows. The Beavers reached 56 points with 12 minutes still to play and finished with a .549 shooting percentage.
It was the second game in a row and the fourth time in eight Pac-12 games that CU's opponents have shot at least .525 from the field. The Buffs also finished just 15-for-31 at the free throw line.
"A win is a win. We'll take it," Boyle said. "Obviously we overcame a really tough night at the free throw line. It seems like there's always something this team has to overcome, but tonight we did."
COLORADO 85, OREGON ST. 78
OREGON ST. (4-17)
Eubanks 10-13 7-9 27, Rakocevic 0-2 0-0 0, Manuel 3-10 2-2 9, McLaughlin 3-7 3-4 12, Thompson 10-16 2-3 26, Kone 0-0 0-0 0, Dahlen 1-1 0-1 2, Sanders 0-2 0-0 0, Muller 0-0 0-0 0, Stacy 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-52 14-19 78.
Miller 3-4 0-2 6, Siewert 1-3 0-0 3, Brown 3-5 0-1 7, Peters 5-6 2-5 15, Akyazili 1-4 0-0 2, Gordon 0-1 0-0 0, King 8-15 4-8 24, Fortune 1-5 0-0 3, White 1-3 3-6 5, Collier 2-5 5-6 10, Johnson 4-7 1-2 10. Totals 29-58 15-30 85.
Halftime — Colorado 41-40. 3-point goals — Oregon St. 8-19 (Thompson 4-7, McLaughlin 3-3, Manuel 1-6, Rakocevic 0-1, Sanders 0-2), Colorado 12-22 (King 4-8, Peters 3-3, Siewert 1-1, Johnson 1-1, Brown 1-2, Collier 1-2, Fortune 1-4, Akyazili 0-1). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Oregon St. 32 (Eubanks 11), Colorado 28 (Miller, Siewert 5). Assists — Oregon St. 9 (McLaughlin 4), Colorado 19 (Akyazili 6). Total fouls — Oregon St. 23, Colorado 19.