CU men’s basketball preview: Oregon State
GAME TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. MST, Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, Ore.
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (15-11, 5-8 Pac-12 Conference) at Oregon State Beavers (4-22, 0-13).
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 760 AM.
Colorado — Tad Boyle, 7th season (145-91, 201-157 overall); Oregon State — Wayne Tinkle, 3rd season (40-49, 198-140 overall).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G Derrick White, Sr., 17.0 ppg; Rebounding: F Wesley Gordon, Sr., 7.3 rpg; Assists: White, 4.2 apg. Oregon State — Scoring: G Stephen Thompson, So., 16.7 ppg; Rebounding: F Drew Eubanks, So., 8.4 rpg; Assists: Thompson, 3.4 apg.
NOTABLE: This week’s games at OSU and No. 7 Oregon are the Buffs’ final road games of the regular season…Eubanks recorded 27 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocked shots in OSU’s loss at CU three weeks ago…Gordon posted 13 points and 11 rebounds in the Buffs’ loss last year at Gill Coliseum. Gordon also is expected to tie former teammate Josh Scott for sixth-place in CU history with his 124th game played…CU junior Tory Miller ranks second in field goal percentage in Pac-12 games at .635 (40-for-63)…White has averaged 21.2 points over the past five games…Given a spot start alongside a group of reserves against OSU on Jan. 26, sophomore guard Thomas Akyazili responded with six assists and no turnovers in 15 minutes. In the five games since (47 minutes) Akyazili has produced just one assist with six turnovers…CU junior George King scored a season-best 24 points in the Buffs’ previous game against OSU…CU senior Xavier Johnson is coming off a season-low four-point performance against Washington State. It was only the fifth single-digit scoring effort of the season for Johnson and his first since the Pac-12 opener at Utah on Jan. 1.
In a different year, the Colorado Buffaloes might be excused if they were caught looking ahead this week.
At 5-8 in the Pac-12 Conference, however, CU simply does not have that luxury. Though there is a date looming Saturday against No. 7 Oregon, where an upset would revive whatever dim NCAA Tournament hopes the Buffs have left, CU first must take care of business against a reeling Oregon State squad in a Pac-12 battle Thursday night.
“If we’re 10-2, absolutely (looking ahead) is natural,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “We’re not 10-2. We’re 5-8. If we’re 11-2, that’s a natural thing you’re going to guard against. We shouldn’t take anything for granted. All you can do as a coach is try to prepare your team the way you normally do and make them understand the sense of urgency that we’re faced with.”
The Buffs have rebounded from an 0-7 start in league play to win five of their past six games. CU should be able to continue that streak against Oregon State, though the Beavers could well view the visiting Buffs as their last best chance to avoid a winless Pac-12 schedule.
One year after reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 26 years, OSU has watched its season unravel. Top all-around player Tres Tinkle appeared in the first six games of the season before getting sidelined by a broken wrist, which by all accounts has healed slowly and has OSU exploring the possibility of a redshirt for Tinkle.
The Beavers are 0-13 in the Pac-12 and have lost 18 of their past 19 games. CU edged OSU 85-78 at home on Jan. 26.
“We let a couple go. Washington for sure. Washington State, Arizona State,” CU junior Tory Miller said. “Now we’re peaking, and it’s a good time to peak. We all believe we still have a chance. I don’t know if that’s true or not. We kind of put that in someone else’s hands with our rough start.”
Although the Beavers shot a solid .549 against CU in the teams’ previous matchup, the Buffs have put together their best extended run of defensive play this season in the five games since. During that span CU’s opponents have shot just .414 from the field while going just 44-for-126 (.349) from 3-point range.
Through 13 league games, OSU ranks either 11th or 12th in Pac-12 games in scoring (61.5), scoring margin (minus-16.7), field goal percentage (.417), and turnover margin (minus-4.23). Given the Beavers’ strong shooting performance against the Buffs three weeks ago, however, CU is expecting OSU’s best shot.
“Our defense shouldn’t change no matter what team we play,” senior Xavier Johnson said. “Hopefully we can play both games at our best and take full advantage. If we play defense, we know we can win. We had a lot of games that we let loose and lost that we could’ve won easily. If we just keep playing hard and playing defense, we’ll be fine.”