Oregon State didn’t know it at the time, but the Beavers inadvertently provided the Colorado Buffaloes with a rallying cry a year ago. One that still resonates.
After delivering a strong opening statement against fourth-ranked Oregon in the Pac-12 Conference opener on Thursday, the Buffs will look to keep the momentum rolling on Sunday with a rematch against an Oregon State squad that celebrated a victory at the CU Events Center last January.
That setback galvanized the Buffs, who have gone 24-6 in the 30 games since. And if ever there was an example of the importance of tackling every opponent with equal intensity during the chase for a conference crown, the Buffs need look no further than the Beavers’ last visit.
“We have to protect home court every time we step out here,” CU junior wing D’Shawn Schwartz said. “We know Oregon State is a good team. They’re a good-scoring team, a good offensive team. So we’ve got to lock them down. It shows signs of maturity if we win this game. We’ve just got to lock in and not take anybody lightly, because they’re going to give us their best shot.”
Last year, Oregon State took advantage of a young Buffs team that had yet to find its stride. CU led by nine late in the first half and five at halftime but couldn’t close out the win. Tyler Bey hit a low point, going 1-for-7 with four points while playing just seven minutes after halftime. McKinley Wright IV went 6-for-7 but suffered a critical turnover late, and the Beavers calmly knocked down free throws down the stretch to give CU a 2-6 mark in Pac-12 play.
By the time the clubs met again in the Pac-12 Conference tournament quarterfinals, the Buffs were a different team. Bey and Wright landed first team All-Pac-12 honors, and CU jumped to a fast start in a 15-point win to advance to the Pac-12 semifinals.
“We talked before the Dayton game that we ended Dayton’s season last year in the NIT, and Dayton’s going to use that as a source of fuel,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “If I’m (OSU coach) Wayne Tinkle I’m talking to my team about how Colorado ended our season last year at the Pac-12 tournament. We’ve got a cross to bear there.
“We’re expecting a high-level game. A dogfight, just like we were against Oregon. It’s league play, so you take nothing for granted. We can’t. And I don’t think our team will.”
OSU features one of the most dynamic players in the league in senior Tres Tinkle, the only player in the Pac-12 who, going into Saturday’s action around the league, ranked in the top 10 in the league in scoring (second, 20.3), assists (10th, 3.9), rebounding (ninth, 7.2), and steals (fifth, 1.6). The Beavers boast a solid point guard in junior Ethan Thompson and a standout defensive presence in 7-foot senior Kylor Kelley, who entered the weekend ranked second in the nation with 4.4 blocked shots per game.
“(Tinkle) is an elite-level scorer. Especially going left,” Boyle said. “He can shoot the ball from three. He can get the ball to the rim. He’s got a mid-range game. He’s got good size, he’s smart, he’s tough. He’s a matchup for us. We talked about it in our starting report — it can’t be one guy who’s responsible for Tres Tinkle. We have to be aware of him as a team. Where he is on the floor, when he has the ball. We have to have a great team defensive effort against him, not just an individual one.”
Oregon State Beavers at CU Buffs men’s basketball
TIPOFF: Sunday, 4 p.m., CU Events Center.
BROADCAST: TV — ESPNU; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.
RECORDS: Oregon State 10-3, 0-1 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 12-1, 1-0.
COACHES: Oregon State — Wayne Tinkle, 6th season (85-86, 243-177 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 10th season (201-125, 257-191 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Oregon State — F Tres Tinkle, Sr., 20.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.9 apg; G Ethan Thompson, Jr., 15.8 ppg, 4.5 apg, 4.3 rpg; F Kylor Kelley, Sr., 11.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.4 bpg. Colorado — G McKinley Wright IV, Jr., 13.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.5 apg; F Tyler Bey, Jr., 12.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg; G/F D’Shawn Schwartz, Jr., 11.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, .478 3-point percentage; F Evan Battey, R-So., 9.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg.
WHAT TO WATCH: The Buffs will be challenged to ignite their own intensity. With a possible national ranking pending on Monday and a slower, one-game week ahead, CU can’t be caught napping against an OSU squad that won in Boulder last year.
NOTES: CU leads the all-time series 15-8, with a 9-2 mark at home…Oregon State opened Pac-12 play with an 81-69 loss Thursday night at Utah. Tinkle scored 19 points but was held to a 6-for-17 mark from the field…Wright enters the game tied with Donnie Boyce and Nate Tomlinson at sixth place in program history with 405 assists. Next on the list is Toney Ellis with 409 assists…Shane Gatling enjoyed a big game against OSU in CU’s win in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals in March, going 3-for-4 on 3-pointers. Gatling made multiple 3-pointers in 15 of 36 games a year ago but has done so just twice in 14 games this season…Bey was just 3-for-15 in two games against OSU last year…The Buffs will be off for a week before continuing the homestand Jan. 12 against Utah (4 p.m., ESPNU).