EUGENE, Ore. — What happened to the Colorado Buffaloes on Thursday night felt somewhat familiar.
What occurred in a loss at Oregon in a top-20 showdown wasn’t exactly a replica of the stunning turn of events that unfolded in Boulder last month against Oregon State. Yet it certainly was eerily close enough to remind the Buffs of what is at stake as they attempt to regroup for a Saturday night Pac-12 Conference battle at Oregon State.
Six weeks after unraveling over the final seven-plus minutes against the Beavers, and suffering a loss in an outcome that still would have the Buffs in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 despite their second-half collapse against the Ducks on Thursday, CU finally gets another shot at OSU while trying to salvage a split of the Oregon trip.
“We have to bounce back,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “You have to be tough enough to put this (Oregon loss) behind you and learn from it. We’ve got a very short turnaround to play Oregon State on Saturday. Oregon State is playing well at home. They beat this Oregon team in Corvallis. They just beat Utah. They’re playing well. They’re hungry. They want to win just like everybody else. It’s a big game on Saturday. A big game, without a doubt.”
Last month in Boulder, the Buffs led by 11 points and seemingly were cruising to a victory when OSU’s 1-3-1 press resulted in a frenetic finish, with the Beavers outscoring CU 24-5 down the stretch to pull out the victory.
At Oregon on Thursday, the Buffs led by 14 points late in the first half and still led by nine with about 12 minutes remaining before the Ducks rallied, producing a late 12-0 run to pull into a first-place tie with CU atop the Pac-12.
“It’s still extremely frustrating,” CU junior D’Shawn Schwartz said. “Just going 1-for-2 on road trips is not ideal for a team like us. Especially trying to do what we want to do. This should’ve been a big separating game for us, but obviously we’ve got to look forward to our next game. We know Oregon (State) is going to give us their best shot. They beat us last time, so we’ve got to go out there and win it.”
“I think we take each game with the same kind of focus. But Oregon State, especially since we lost to Oregon, we’ve got to lock in to this game.”
The Buffs have displayed a penchant for bouncing back after tough losses. After a listless showing in a loss at Arizona on Jan. 18, CU responded by winning five of its next six games. The lone loss in that span was a disappointing result at UCLA, but two days later the Buffs salvaged a road split by dominating USC on its home floor.
“Obviously they’re not just going to let us come in and beat them,” CU point guard McKinley Wright IV said. “We’ve got to go and play at a high level. We’ve got to take care of the ball. We’ve got to guard. We’ve got to rebound. Tonight we gave up 12 offensive rebounds. Coach said they had 20 points off second chance. We’ve got to take that out of the equation for Saturday.”
No. 16 CU Buffs at Oregon State
TIPOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m. MT, Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, Ore.
BROADCAST: TV — Fox Sports 1; Radio — KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.
RECORDS: Colorado — 19-6, 8-4 Pac-12 Conference; Oregon State—15-9, 5-7.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 10th season (208-129, 264-195 overall); Oregon State — Wayne Tinkle, 6th season (90-92, 248-183 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G McKinley Wright, Jr., 13.6 ppg, 5.2 apg, 5.1 rpg; F Tyler Bey, Jr., 13.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg; G/F D’Shawn Schwartz, Jr., 11.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, .414 3-point percentage; F Evan Battey, R-So., 9.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg. Oregon State — F Tres Tinkle, Sr., 18.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.7 apg; G Ethan Thompson, Jr., 15.0 ppg, 4.3 apg, 4.2 rpg; F Kylor Kelley, Sr., 11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.6 bpg.
WHAT TO WATCH: The Buffs unraveled against Oregon State’s 1-3-1 zone press on Jan. 2, and they are coming off an 18-turnover game against Oregon, by far their highest total in Pac-12 play. Limiting turnovers will provide more opportunities for CU’s conference-leading field goal percentage (.460 in league games).
NOTES: In Oregon State’s win at CU on Jan. 2, Thompson paced the Beavers with 24 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. OSU also got a career-high 19 points from guard Zach Reichle. Bey led the Buffs with 20 points and eight rebounds…OSU has won three of its past four games, including consecutive home wins against Oregon and Utah. In Thursday’s win against Utah, OSU’s Thompson matched a career-high with 11 assists…Beavers senior Tres Tinkle needs 10 points to own an impressive OSU record, as he enters the game with 89 consecutive games with double-figure points, tying Mel Counts for the longest streak in program history…Wright needs two steals to become the 21st CU player to reach 100 in his career…The Buffs return Boulder for the final home series of the season, facing USC on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN2) and UCLA in the home finale on Saturday (2 p.m., CBS).