CU men’s basketball: Buffs can’t buckle against Oregon press

John Locher / Associated Press
Dillon Brooks, center, and the Ducks sent Dominique Collier, left, Wesley Gordon and the Buffaloes home at last season’s Pac-12 Tournament. Colorado coach Tad Boyle hopes his team learned from that loss, heading into their rematch Sunday in Boulder.

CU men’s basketball preview: Oregon

MATCHUP: Oregon Ducks (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12 Conference) at Colorado Buffaloes (13-4, 2-2).

BROADCAST: Radio — 760 AM; TV — Pac-12 Networks.

COACHES: Oregon — Dana Altman, sixth season (137-60, 547-303 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, sixth season (121-72, 177-138 overall).

Oregon — Scoring: F Dillon Brooks, So., 15.5 ppg; Rebounding: F Chris Boucher, Sr., 7.9 rpg; Assists: G Casey Benson, So., 3.1 apg; Colorado — F Josh Scott, Sr., 17.9 ppg; Rebounding: Scott, 9.7; Assists: G Dom Collier, So., 3.2 apg.

NOTABLE: Oregon defeated CU at home and in the league tournament last season but is 0-5 all-time in Boulder…CU’s Wes Gordon has averaged 10.7 rebounds over the past three games…Scott has recorded double-double in each of the past three games and four of the past five. Scott needs 10 points to become the 10th Buffaloes player to reach the 1,500 mark in his career…Oregon’s Benson leads the Pac-12 with an impressive assists-to-turnover ratio of 5.2 (52 assists, 10 turnovers).

Tad Boyle hasn’t forgotten what the Oregon Ducks did to his Colorado Buffaloes last spring.

He hopes his players haven’t, either.

In the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference tournament 10 months ago, CU’s slim halftime lead turned into a reasonably comfortable victory for Oregon, in large part due to the Ducks’ relentless pressure defense that shackled the Buffaloes’ attack.

It is a lesson Boyle has reminded his club about repeatedly as the Buffs get set to face a defensively strong Ducks squad for the first time this season Sunday at the Coors Events Center (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).

“They try to keep you off-balance,” Boyle said. “They press. We’re going to have to take care of the ball tomorrow against their press. In the conference tournament last year, we were winning and had the game under control. Then their press got to us and we turned it over and they got back in the game and got going. They just keep you off-balance. They keep you guessing in terms of what kind of defense they’re in.”

Limiting turnovers against that Oregon press will be critical for a CU club that has struggled in that department all season. The Buffs have committed 234 turnovers overall, trailing only Washington by one for the most in the Pac-12, and have averaged 13.8 per game. CU has recorded a season-most 18 turnovers in five different contests, including twice in the past three games.

“They’re a very good team and it’s important for us to assert our will,” senior Josh Scott said. “They’re fast and they’re smart players. You can’t be nonchalant with the basketball with this team. You know they’re going to turn defense into offense, and that’s what gets them going. We have to be safe with the ball.

“They have some shot blockers. They have some really smart, intelligent players. And if you turn the ball over it’s probably going to be a bucket on the other end. They’re just really fast.”

The Ducks have excelled in the top defensive categories, ranking first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (64.9), third in defensive field goal percentage (.397), and fourth in defensive 3-point percentage (.323). The Ducks also rank third in blocked shots per game (6.3) and second in steals per game (8.0).

Ducks senior Chris Boucher leads the league in blocked shots with 59 and had six in Oregon’s surprisingly comfortable 18-point win at Utah on Thursday.

“Oregon is a tough-minded group,” Boyle said. “Obviously I don’t think Utah had their best outing, but I think a lot of the credit goes to Oregon. They’re tough-minded. They’re athletic. They’re a good team. They’ve got a lot of guys who can finish.”

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