Don’t tell the Colorado Buffaloes about their recent dominance against UCLA.
A week ago, CU men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle was asked about the recent one-sided nature of his team’s Pac-12 Conference rivalry with Utah, which arrived at the CU Events Center having won nine of its past 10 matchups against the Buffs.
Those previous results, however, didn’t matter once the ball was tipped off in what became a 71-63 win for CU against the Utes. It’s a similar situation this week, albeit reversed, as a UCLA club that has struggled against this particular group of Buffaloes visits the CU Events Center Thursday night (7 p.m., ESPN2) with both clubs in the hunt for one of the two remaining open slots for the league’s top four, which comes with a bye for the first round of the Pac-12 tournament next week in Las Vegas.
It is a message Boyle has reiterated with his team throughout the week.
“I don’t think it’s anything about the matchup. I think every game is a new game,” Boyle said. “Streaks are streaks. As a coach, and you’re here nine years and you play teams multiple times, there’s going to be times when you get on a roll against a certain team, or a certain team gets on a roll against you. I made our guys aware of the Utah dominance that they’ve had against us. They still do if you look at it over the last 10 games. The only way to change that is to win the next game.
“The fact that we’ve beaten UCLA three times in a row has absolutely no bearing on Thursday’s game.”
The Buffs won only one true road game during the 2017-18 season, yet it was a memorable one, with CU posting its first win at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion in what arguably was the young Buffs’ best all-around performance of last season. CU completed a season sweep of UCLA month later and once again won at Pauley this year, winning 84-73 in Los Angeles last month.
Boyle is correct in his assertion the three-game winning streak against the Bruins will mean nothing come Thursday night. Nonetheless, the Bruins have brought out the best in the Buffs. During the three-game streak CU has shot a solid .457 overall against UCLA while shooting an even 50 percent (38-for-76) from 3-point range.
With Washington and Arizona State already locked into the top two spots in the Pac-12, UCLA is one of three teams next in line with a 9-7 league mark. CU, at 8-8, is jockeying for space along with two other .500 clubs in Oregon and USC, which visits CU Saturday. The Buffs need two wins plus a little help (either two Oregon State losses or at least one loss by Utah against the Los Angeles schools) in order to land inside the top four. The Bruins, though, are in control of their own destiny.
“Any time you play a team and you’ve beaten them a few times, or even one time for that matter, they have the emotional edge,” Boyle said. “We have to make sure that edge is nullified based on our concentration and readiness to play. Just like I felt like we had an emotional edge on Utah maybe. But they didn’t come in here and give it to us. We had to beat them. That’s what you have to do in good leagues against good teams and good coaches.”