Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
CU men’s basketball preview: Oregon State Beavers
TIPOFF: Thursday, 7 p.m., CU Events Center.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 850 AM.
RECORDS: Oregon State 12-7, 4-3 Pac-12 Conference: Colorado 11-8, 2-5.
COACHES: Oregon State — Wayne Tinkle, 5th season (69-77, 227-168 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (177-118, 233-184 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Oregon State — F Tres Tinkle, Jr., 20.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 4.2 apg; G Stephen Thompson Jr., Sr., 15.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.8 apg; G Ethan Thompson, So., 13.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.2 apg. Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 12.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.8 rpg; F Tyler Bey, So., 12.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg; F Lucas Siewert, Jr., 11.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg.
NOTES: CU has won 9 of 10 meetings at home against OSU, including a 5-1 mark in Boulder since joining the Pac-12…This is the teams’ only meeting this season. In last year’s lone matchup, a 76-57 Buffs road loss in the league opener, Tinkle went 9-for-14 with 23 points and six assists…Stephen Thompson is OSU’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers (210). Thompson has lit it up at home in Pac-12 play, averaging 25.8 points with a .536 field goal percentage. But in OSU’s three league road games, he has averaged just 8.7 points with a .391 shooting percentage…Siewert is the only active CU player who has faced OSU more than once. He has gone 1-for-8 in three games against the Beavers…Buffs freshman Daylen Kountz still is shooting a solid .370 on 3-pointers this season, but he is just 3-for-15 in Pac-12 play…CU’s homestand continues Saturday night against Oregon (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
In recent years one nuance that often has separated the Colorado men’s basketball team from its rival at Oregon State has been team depth.
The Buffaloes typically have had it, or at least more than the Beavers. That no longer is the case.
While Oregon State still relies heavily on a top-scoring trio that might be the most impactful three-pronged attack in the Pac-12 Conference, the Beavers have evolved into a squad that receives significant contributions across its rotation. It is a big reason why OSU will be seeking its best eight-game start in league play since the Gary Payton-led 1989-90 team when it visits the CU Events Center Thursday night.
“In the NBA you have teams with a Big Three, these guys have a big three in the two Thompson brothers and Tres Tinkle,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “They have some other players that certainly support those three guys, but those three guys are averaging (about 50) points amongst the three of them. And they all play 35-plus minutes a game. They’re a three-headed monster.
“Usually when we play Oregon State, we feel like we have a depth advantage. But I’m not sure that’s the case this year with the situation we’re in. They’re a much-improved team than they were last year.”
In Tinkle, OSU boasts the only player ranked among in the Pac-12’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding, and assists. Stephen Thompson has shot 50 percent in league games while younger brother Ethan Thompson had tallied a season-high six assists in three of the past five games, including the past two in a row. Those three players went a combined 22-for-37 (.595) in OSU’s 19-point win against the Buffs last year.
Though that trio certainly has carried the load for the Beavers, OSU boasts other weapons at its disposal. Seven-foot junior Kylor Kelley was thrust into a larger role earlier this season when senior Gligorije Rakocevic was sidelined by an injury. He has responded by ranking second in the nation in blocks per game (3.68), and Kelley needs just three more blocked shots to match OSU’s single-season record. Gligorije is back and shooting .618 off the bench.
“(Tinkle) is a good player,” Boyle said. “He can score in a lot of different ways. He can score from behind the arc. He can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. He’s got a good pull-up and mid-range game. Tres is a heck of a player. He’s a good passer. I don’t think he gets enough attention for the plays he makes for others. And he rebounds the ball well. He’s tough.
“We’ll try different guys on him, no doubt. We’ll try different guys and see who has the best luck and stick with that.”
The Buffs, meanwhile, have watched injuries and Deleon Brown’s academic issues reduce their rotation to seven players, with junior Alex Strating and freshman Eli Parquet able to provide spot minutes when necessary. Among those seven rotation players, three of them — Evan Battey, Daylen Kountz, and Shane Gatling — are going through the Pac-12 schedule for the first time. Boyle has been careful not to use his team’s injuries and inexperience as excuses for what so far has been a disappointing season. Yet the reality is the Buffs must somehow overcome those factors if they hope to make a move in the league standings during a regular season-closing run of seven out of 11 games at home that begins Thursday against the Beavers.
“We’ve been playing without quite a few players now for some time,” junior forward Lucas Siewert said. “We’re getting used to playing big minutes. McKinley (Wright) played big minutes last year. Obviously my minutes went up. I think being in shape is going to be a big thing for us, as well as staying out of foul trouble.”