The Colorado Buffaloes know they dodged one on Wednesday night.
Even in victory, head coach Tad Boyle labeled his reaction to the performance as "disgusted" while also saying he couldn't recall being more disappointed in a team that had just earned a win during his entire coaching career.
Anyone that stayed up to watch Wednesday's 68-64 home win against Cal to its unnecessarily dramatic conclusion understands Boyle's frustration. However, unlike subpar outings against San Diego and Washington, the Buffs still escaped with a victory to improve to 14-10 overall and 6-6 in the Pac-12 Conference. Add to the equation a favorable upcoming schedule — CU completes a three-game homestand Sunday afternoon against Stanford, followed by a road game at last-place Washington State — and the Buffs realize an opportunity is at hand to gain traction in the jumbled middle ground of the league standings.
However, that won't happen if the Buffs repeat their mistake-heavy effort against Cal.
"There's going to be times when you're going to have to figure out a way to win when you're not at your best. And (Wednesday) was one of those nights, there's no doubt about it," Boyle said. "But there's a distinction between not being at your best in terms of not shooting the ball well, or missing free throws, which we did. And there's a difference between not being at your best when you're playing with great energy, playing with great effort, playing with great toughness, playing with great concentration.
"Those are the things as a coach I can't live with. I can live with missed shots. I can live with missed free throws. It's really hard to live with those other things. That's the thing I'm disappointed in. If we would've played with the effort, energy, and toughness we played with against Utah, I wouldn't be saying the things I'm saying. We wouldn't have won (against Cal) by four. We would've won by 24."
While some of the miscues against Cal were maddening but perhaps explainable — such as the 13 first-half turnovers that led to 12 points for the Golden Bears — others were downright boggling. For example, midway through the second half with the Buffs holding a five-point lead, Cal was assessed a technical foul. Not only did senior George King miss both technical free throws, but on the subsequent possession he didn't establish his position inbounds in time to receive a pass from McKinley Wright, resulting in a turnover.
Additionally, after holding Cal to a 2-for-12 mark on 3-pointers until the final minute, the Golden Bears abruptly made three in a row with little defensive resistance, a splurge that very nearly erased the Buffs' 8-for-9 mark at the free throw line in the final 50 seconds.
"Stanford doesn't play Utah until (Thursday), so we're going to have three days to prepare for Stanford," Boyle said. "Well guess what? We'd better prepare and we'd better be ready to play. (Stanford's) Reid Travis will have 18 offensive rebounds by himself on Sunday if we don't figure things out."
The Buffs are expecting the return of Namon Wright against Stanford after the junior guard missed the past two games due to an illness.