SEATTLE — No loss feels good. Some, however, inevitably sting a little more deeply than others.
Coach Tad Boyle lamented this dynamic late Wednesday night after his Colorado men's basketball team dropped a 76-74 decision at Washington State. It wasn't just the end of a five-game winning streak — the Buffaloes' longest in conference play in 13 years — that left such a sour taste. It was misfiring down the stretch in a very winnable game, along with a missed opportunity to inch a little closer to the team's preseason goals on the road, that had the Buffs regretting what could have been as they attempt to shake off their first defeat in three weeks in order to regroup for Saturday's date against Pac-12-leading Washington.
"It's amazing the difference between a one-possession game you have in a loss versus a win," Boyle said. "If we'd have won this (WSU) game I would have been obviously really proud and excited for our guys. But we didn't. Winning and losing matters. Our guys wanted to win, but we weren't good enough. Washington State beat us. The credit goes to them."
Prior to the season, CU set the lofty goal of winning seven road games this season, a feat that hasn't been achieved by any Buffs team since they went 7-4 on the road during the 1951-52 season. Despite dropping several winnable road games along the way this season — San Diego, Hawaii, Stanford, and again Wednesday at WSU — the Buffs nonetheless would have been in position to reach that goal had they knocked off the Cougars, though it would have taken a significant upset at UW in the final regular-season road game of the year.
"I approached this (WSU) like this is our season right here. And we lost," CU redshirt freshman Evan Battey said. "We have another opportunity at Washington on Saturday. That's how I'm going to approach it, and I hope everyone else does too."
Despite shooting .379 at Washington State, the Buffs' lowest total since their opening two Pac-12 games in Arizona, Boyle said afterwards his team's 74 points on the road should have been enough to come out with a victory. But the Cougars shot .455, the most by a CU opponent since before the winning streak started, and WSU's .526 mark on 3-pointers (10-for-19) was the best mark by a CU foe in Pac-12 play and the second-highest this season (Indiana State shot .563, 9-for-16, in a Buffs loss on Dec. 22.)
"It's going to be a totally different environment," Boyle said. "It's going to be sold out. Washington is rolling. We're going to be playing against a zone for 40 minutes. (At WSU) we probably played against it probably for 30. We'd better handle it better than we handled it (Wednesday). We've got to play inside-out. We've got to be aggressive. We've got to move the ball. We've got to make plays for each other."
"If we score 74 points against Washington, I'll take that right now. We've got to hold them to below 74. As a coach, I can't control shots going in. I can't control guys driving in and turning it over. Those things I can't control. But I feel like what I can control is our defensive mindset, and (at WSU) for some reason I didn't have our guys ready. They weren't dialed-in defensively and it showed."