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First-place CU Buffs to begin preparing for huge Oregon trip

Buffs look to shake recent habit of slow starts

Colorado’s Tyler Bey gets a rebound in front of Stanford’s Jaiden Delaire during the February 8, 2020 Pac-12 game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Sunday morning had to be a rather fulfilling one for the Colorado men’s basketball team.

Not only were the Buffaloes coming off a memorable win Saturday afternoon against Stanford, surviving an emotional scene following a head injury to Cardinal star Oscar da Silva before putting together one of the biggest comeback victories in program history, but CU received plenty of help later Saturday evening from its rivals across the Pac-12 Conference.

First, UCLA held Arizona to its lowest shooting percentage in the 47-year history of the Wildcats’ McKale Center, with UA shooting just .254 in a loss that nudged the Wildcats further behind Pac-12 front-runners CU and Oregon.

Then, the same Oregon State team that stunned CU at home a month ago did the Buffs a huge favor, upsetting the 14th-ranked Ducks on Saturday night. That left the Buffs (19-4, 8-3) all alone atop the Pac-12 standings heading into their trip to Oregon, which begins Thursday against the Ducks in a showdown likely to be the first of several contests down the stretch that could be billed as the biggest game of the season for the Buffs.

“We know that Oregon trip is tough,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Oregon is one of the most talented teams in our league. It’s not easy to win there. We’re going to have to strap our boots up, lace them up, and go let it all hang out. Oregon State beat us here. One thing I know about Oregon, they’ll be ready. They’re well-coached. They’re a talented team.”

When CU reconvenes for practice on Monday, addressing the slow starts to games in recent weeks likely will be a topic of conversation for Boyle and his staff.

In the home wins this week against Cal and Stanford, the Buffs stumbled out of the gate, posting a combined overall field goal percentage of .347 (17-for-49) in those first halves while going 5-for-26 on 3-pointers. It was a similar story in a loss last week at UCLA, where CU shot just .381 in the opening period.

Granted, the Buffs have recovered every time. Against Cal, CU shot .591 overall after halftime and 5-for-11 on 3-pointers. On Saturday, the Buffs caught fire after the break, shooting 70 percent overall (14-for-20) while going a perfect 8-for-8 on 3-pointers. CU also knocked down its final 3-point attempt in the first half, with the nine consecutive made 3-pointers setting a team record.

No doubt, CU’s ability to turn it on in the second half is a trait that will serve the team well in its quest to win its first Pac-12 regular season championship. Yet the Buffs also know they can ill afford to continue making things difficult with the slow starts, particularly in the upcoming battle against Oregon.

“On the defensive end, yes, we’ve got to be better,” CU point guard McKinley Wright said. “Especially with a team like Oregon. They get out and run. They shoot a lot of deep threes. They’ve got some bigs that can score down low. But as far as offensively, I think we’re doing the right thing. The first half (against Stanford), we got a little stagnant in our circle and our motion, but like I said we were getting good looks. We were getting the looks we wanted. They just weren’t going in for us. I’m not too concerned with the offensive end. But the defensive end, we’ve got to tighten up.”