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CU basketball in position to pick up elusive Pac-12 road sweep at Stanford

Colorado's McKinley Wright returned to the lineup on Thursday against Cal after missing one game with a shoulder injury.
Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post
Colorado’s McKinley Wright returned to the lineup on Thursday against Cal after missing one game with a shoulder injury.

CU men’s basketball preview: Stanford Cardinal

TIPOFF: Saturday, 6 p.m. MT, Maples Pavilion, Stanford, Calif.

BROADCAST: TV — Fox Sports 1; Radio — 850 AM.

RECORDS: Colorado 11-7, 2-4 Pac-12 Conference; Stanford 9-10, 2-5.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (177-117, 233-183 overall); Stanford — Jerod Haase, 3rd season (42-43, 122-96 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 12.6 ppg, 5.2 apg, 4.8 rpg; F Tyler Bey, So., 11.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg; F Lucas Siewert, Jr., 11.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg. Stanford — F KZ Okpala, So., 18.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg; G Daejon Davis, So., 12.4 ppg, 4.3 apg; F Oscar da Silva, So., 8.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg.

NOTES: The Buffs have won nine consecutive games against Stanford, including the past four on the road…CU’s last visit to Stanford produced an 81-74 victory on Feb. 2, 2017. Current San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White went 6-for-8 and finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and four blocked shots…CU wasn’t credited with any steals during Thursday’s win at Cal. That hasn’t happened since Jan. 24, 1981 at Kansas. That was just a few months before a freshman named Tad Boyle joined the Jayhawks out of Greeley…Utah went 9-for-14 in its 70-66 win at Stanford Thursday night against Utah…The Cardinal’s da Silva was held scoreless for the first time this season against the Utes…Siewert fell one point shy of matching his career-high with 18 points Thursday at Cal. Siewert has shot 11-for-20 overall and 4-for-6 on 3-pointers in the past two games…CU returns home next week to face Oregon State on Thursday (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network) and Oregon on Saturday (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

BERKELEY, Calif. — — It has been a trying month for the Colorado men’s basketball team.

From injuries to guards McKinley Wright and Namon Wright, to guard Deleon Brown getting ruled academically ineligible, and to on-court shortcomings like turnovers and defensive lapses, the Buffaloes’ recent rut has stifled CU’s lofty preseason expectations.

The Buffs earned a momentary reprieve by topping lowly Cal Thursday night on the road, and despite the frustrations of the past month CU still has an opportunity to pull off a feat the program has achieved just once since joining the Pac-12 Conference before the 2011-12 season.

Since then, the Buffs have competed in 29 two-game road series within the league. Only once has CU recorded a road sweep, but the Buffs will have an opportunity to double that total at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion Saturday night.

“If we can somehow find a way to get a win against Stanford, and come back 3-4 (in the league), now we’ve got (seven of 11) at home,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “The last time we started out with five of seven on the road we were 0-7 in that period of time, and that was with a veteran group. If we can somehow find a way, that’s what we have to do.”

The team Boyle refers to is the 2016-17 squad. Coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance the previous spring while adding eventual NBA first-round pick Derrick White to the mix — the Buffs also featured an eventual draft pick in then-junior George King — CU was expected to make a similar run in 2017. It didn’t happen, as the winless mark during a league-opening stretch of five road dates in the first seven games ultimately ended those NCAA tourney goals and relegated the Buffs to a first-round exit in the NIT.

By topping Cal on Thursday, the Buffs improved to 2-4 in the tough opening stretch within the league. A win against Stanford would be the Buffs’ second two-game road sweep in the program’s Pac-12 history, joining a pair of wins in Oregon in 2013.

“Just stay with each other, stay positive, come together and we’ve got to guard,” CU point guard McKinley Wright said. “In order for us to win on the road, we’ve have to strap down and guard. Stanford is a high-offensive scoring team. They have a lot of good players. We’re going to have to buckle down.”

Much like the Buffs, Stanford has endured a rollercoaster season. The Cardinal challenged on some of the nation’s best programs during nonconference play and even took Kansas to overtime on the road on Dec. 1. Stanford started 0-3 in league play but posted an impressive home win against Arizona State on Jan. 12, but the Cardinal is coming off a 70-66 loss at home Thursday night against Utah.

“We know it’s going to be tough at Stanford. A lot tougher than it was (at Cal),” CU forward Lucas Siewert said. “Coach is going to put in a great plan for us, so we’ve just got to go out there and execute it.”

Pat Rooney: or