CU men's basketball preview: Oregon
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (8-5, 0-1 Pac-12 Conference) at Oregon Ducks (10-4, 0-1)
GAME TIME: Sunday, 8 p.m. MST, Knight Arena, Eugene, Ore.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 760 AM.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 8th season (157-100, 213-166 overall); Oregon — Dana Altman, 8th season (197-74, 607-317 overall).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G McKinley Wright, Fr., 16.2 ppg; Rebounding: G/F George King, Sr., 8.2 rpg; Assists: Wright, 4.8 apg. Oregon — Scoring: G Payton Pritchard, So., 15.6 ppg; Rebounding: F Troy Brown, Fr., 7.6 rpg; Assists: Pritchard, 4.4 apg.
NOTES: The Buffs have shot just .270 (13-for-48) on 3-pointers in the past two games. Over the past five games — which includes a solid 13-for-27 game against South Dakota State — CU is shooting only .305 (37-for-121) from long range...CU has posted more assists than turnovers in just four of its 13 games...CU has lost its past three games at Oregon...Heading into Saturday's action around the league CU ranked 11th in the league in turnover margin (minus-2.3) and was tied for 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.8)...After playing a season-low seven minutes against Iowa last week due to a sore ankle, freshman guard Lazar Nikolic returned to form by playing 20 minutes in Friday's loss at Oregon State...Freshman D'Shawn Schwartz has been a bright spot among CU's turnover woes. His lone turnover at OSU was just his third of the season in 171 minutes.
EUGENE, Ore. — Is the result of one league game too soon to hit the panic button?
For the Colorado men's basketball team, maybe not.
A year ago, with a team that featured four fifth-year seniors and a fourth-year junior, the Buffaloes stumbled their way to an 0-7 start in Pac-12 Conference play. With a vastly different and much younger cast of characters this season, the Buffs will be challenged to avoid a repeat performance, particularly after Friday night's 19-point loss at Oregon State.
The Buffs complete their road trip with a quick turnaround at Oregon on Sunday night, the first match of a daunting stretch of games over the next few weekends.
"You have to turn the page," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "We've got to show our guys certain things they have to get better at. But really, it goes to getting the game plan set for Oregon. (Assistant) Mike Rohn has been looking at their film so we'll be ready to give that to our guys. We've got a day of practice in Eugene. We've got to be able to make some shots at some point to beat somebody.
"This is a quick turnaround and we can't feel sorry for ourselves. We're not going to hang our heads. But you don't have a lot of time to cry over (Oregon State)."
While Oregon isn't the juggernaut it has been the past few seasons, the loss against Oregon State might have been the Buffs' best chance to pick up a league victory over the first three weekends of Pac-12 play.
After Sunday, the Buffs host their first conference home games against No. 3-ranked Arizona State and No. 17 Arizona. They follow that set with a trip to Los Angeles, where they face a UCLA team on the cusp of being ranked and a USC squad that, while so far falling short of preseason expectations, nonetheless will be a heavy favorite against the Buffs.
Certainly CU isn't going to look too far ahead. Yet given how uncompetitive they were against an Oregon State team likely to finish in the bottom half of the league, the Buffs easily could be 0-6 when Washington State visits the Coors Events Center on Jan. 18. Given the following game is against Washington, which opened league play with a win at USC and has a victory against Kansas to its credit, with the Arizona trip a week after that, and the Buffs could be excused for being in desperation mode Sunday at Knight Arena.
"Amnesia. We've got a game on Sunday, so we just have to focus on Oregon," CU senior George King said. "That's all it is."
Perhaps one thing working in the Buffs' favor on Sunday is that the Ducks are not the same team that routed that veteran CU bunch 101-73 in Eugene last year. Oregon had its 46-game home win streak snapped on Dec. 1 with a loss against Boise State, which received five 3-pointers from Longmont High grad Justinian Jessup. The Ducks' next home win streak reached just four games before suffering a loss against Utah Friday night in a league opener the Utes dominated after halftime.
"We've got to bounce back and focus on Oregon now," CU freshman guard McKinley Wright said. "It's a long season. Seventeen (league) games left. Oregon is a huge game for us. We need this one. Coming off back-to-back losses is pretty tough. I'm going to do the best I can to motivate these guys to come out and play their best."