BERKELEY, Calif. — For arguably the first time all season, the Colorado men’s basketball team has a meaningful measure of momentum in its corner.
The disastrous 0-7 start in Pac-12 Conference play the Buffaloes suffered through may not have quite put the Buffaloes into a win-or-go-home situation in regards to their NCAA Tournament dreams, but that is close to the reality for CU.
The Buffs responded with two wins last week that included an upset against then-No. 10 Oregon. On Thursday night they cleared another hurdle, ending a 10-game road losing streak within the Pac-12 by holding off Stanford for their third consecutive win.
These are little steps for certain after the season-changing seven-game losing streak. Yet it’s a commendable start to a stretch-run push that will only get more demanding on Sunday when the Buffs visit a streaking Cal team.
“Coach has talked about how we’re starting to believe in ourselves again,” senior guard Derrick White said. “It kind of started with the Oregon game. We have to stay confident and play each game with the game-plan we go in with. If we do that I think we’ll be successful more often than not.”
If the Buffs still have that late-season surge in them, Thursday’s effort might steel them for the three remaining true road games on the regular season schedule.
Against Stanford, the Buffs held a 12-point lead late in the first half but watched the Cardinal steadily peck away, with Stanford eventually trimming the deficit to four with 11 minutes, 46 seconds remaining. The template being set was eerily similar to three of the Buffs previous four Pac-12 road games, as they squandered leads in the final minute of all three of those games. That frustration included losses against Washington and Washington State in which CU also led in the final minute of over time. At one point early in the second half against Washington, the Buffs led by 17.
This time, however, the Buffs authored a different script, using a 13-2 run sparked by White and freshman Bryce Peters to pull away late. With the Buffs facing a Cal team on Sunday that is coming off a thrilling double-overtime win against Utah, and which has won six of its past seven games, the performance late against Stanford could give the Buffs a boost in a battle Sunday that would give huge credence to their hopes of a stretch-run push with a victory.
“We did it at home against Oregon State when they cut it to two. (Thursday) we did it on the road when they cut it to four and we battled back,” head coach Tad Boyle said. “Guys knew what they had to do, when they had to do it. We’ve got our work cut out for us. Cal is a good team. Our offense is going to have to be good because Cal is very good defensively.”