CU men's basketball preview: Oregon
MATCHUP: No. 10 Oregon Ducks (19-2, 8-0 Pac-12 Conference) at Colorado Buffaloes (11-10, 1-7).
GAME TIME: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.
COACHES: Oregon — Dana Altman, 7th season (173-66, 706-33 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 7th season (141-90, 197-56).
LEADERS: Oregon — Scoring: F Dillon Brooks, Jr., 13.7 ppg; Rebounding: F Jordan Bell, Jr., 7.5 rpg; Assists: G Payton Pritchard, Fr., 3.6 apg. Colorado — Scoring: G Derrick White, Sr., 16.0 ppg; Rebounding: F Wesley Gordon, Sr., 7.6 rpg; Assists: White, 4.2 apg.
NOTABLE: The Buffs are 6-0 at home all-time against the Ducks, including a 91-87 win last year that proved critical to the Buffs' NCAA Tournament resume...After a 2-2 start that featured losses against Baylor and Georgetown, Oregon has reeled off a school-record 17 consecutive wins...Brooks' status was uncertain at the beginning of the week due to a foot injury he suffered last week, but he scored a team-leading 19 points in the Ducks' 73-67 win Thursday at Utah...Coming off the bench for the first time this season, Gordon posted just one rebound with no points Thursday against Oregon State...Buffs senior Xavier Johnson has gone 15-for-29 (.517) on 3-pointers in Pac-12 play...
With one dramatic coaching move, Tory Miller went from being the overlooked quantity among the Colorado Buffaloes' cast of veterans to the elder statesman in a mostly wet-behind-the ears starting lineup.
While four of the five surprise starters Thursday night against Oregon State received their first starting nods of the season, including Miller, the junior forward also brought 81 games of experience to the floor in a lineup that also included freshmen Bryce Peters, Deleon Brown, and Lucas Siewert.
Once again Miller did his job in a victory that finally ended the Buffs' 0-7 drought to begin Pac-12 Conference play, and while head coach Tad Boyle on Friday did not commit to either an encore for the reserves-turned-starters or a return to CU's typical starting lineup, the consistent play Miller generally has displayed so far during league play will be a key component to any upset bid by the Buffs Saturday night at home against No. 10 Oregon.
"My teammates are finding me, especially (the guards)," Miller said. "They've been setting me up in good position where I can score. I think that's the biggest part of it, not necessarily me doing whatever but them finding me."
While Miller had played more minutes than regular starting forward Wesley Gordon on two previous occasions, both instances (Sacramento State and at Utah) saw Miller logging extra time down the stretch in blowout games. Thursday's win against Oregon State marked the first time this season Miller played more minutes than Gordon in a competitive game, and given the general trend both players are moving in, it wouldn't be a surprise if Miller continues to take minutes from Gordon.
In eight Pac-12 games, Miller has shot a robust .647 from the field (22-for-34). Averaging 5.6 points per game overall, Miller has scored six in each of the past four games, and on Saturday he will be tasked with helping to slow down the formidable Oregon frontcourt of Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher.
"Tory's been playing well," Boyle said. "He's playing within himself and taking good shots. He's been steady Eddie for us."
Miller made his first start of the season, and sixth of his career, alongside Peters and Brown, who also will likely see increased playing time down the stretch regardless of the direction Boyle ultimately takes with his starting lineup. Brown had already established himself as a consistent bench presence while Peters continues to show signs of the dynamic scorer that fit his description coming out of high school.
Peters enjoyed the best game of his young career against OSU, going 3-for-3 on 3-pointers and finishing with a season-best 15 points, while his lone turnover against the Beavers counted as his only giveaway over the past three games, a span encompassing 53 minutes.
While both freshmen guards have weathered the usual rookie ups-and-downs, the combined 24 turnovers in 537 minutes between Peters and Brown equates to less than two turnovers per game for the duo. It's an encouraging sign for a team that frequently struggles in the turnover department.
"Me and Del, I would say we're a dynamic duo," Peters said. "Especially because we both like playing defense. I always tell him before the game, 'Let's lock up,' because defense is the main thing we have to work on. And offensively, I think me and Del can contribute a lot more."