It is a trait that has served the Colorado Buffaloes well throughout the season, and one they will need to lean upon to maintain any chance of winning the regular season Pac-12 Conference championship.
No doubt, CU is lamenting home losses — particularly in January against Oregon State and this past Saturday against UCLA — that would have put the Buffs in the league’s driver’s seat had they managed to close out the late leads they held in both contests.
Yet the Buffs have done a commendable job all season in making sure one bad game doesn’t turn into a bad week. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Buffs will have to hope they have another hot streak in them on the heels of a loss as they get set to begin a run of three consecutive regular season-ending road games at Cal on Thursday night (7 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks).
“Usually our bounce-back games are must-wins,” CU junior D’Shawn Schwartz said. “We approach it that way, and we know there’s a lot at stake at this point. We’ve just got to go out and win, that’s the bottom line.
“It’s a little frustrating, knowing that we could’ve separated ourselves. But there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’ve just got to take everything one at a time, and if we can just focus on winning the next game we’ll end out the way we want to.”
After CU lost its first two games of the season in back-to-back fashion against Kansas and Northern Iowa in early December, the Buffs answered with five consecutive wins, a run that included victories against Dayton and Oregon.
After stumbling against Oregon State, CU won four of its next five, including a win at Arizona State before the Sun Devils got hot. When the Buffs lost at UCLA on Jan. 30, they again responded, winning five out of six before losing the rematch against the Bruins.
“It’s annoying because we’ve put ourselves in this position,” junior forward Tyler Bey said. “We’ve been losing games that we shouldn’t have lost. UCLA, Oregon State, those types of games we shouldn’t have lost. It’s just annoying because we should have took care of business at the moment. Now we have to rely on other teams to lose.”
CU, which dropped three spots to No. 21 in this week’s AP Top 25, goes into the regular season’s penultimate week among four teams tied in the loss column behind league-leading Arizona State. The Sun Devils will claim the outright regular season championship if it runs the table.
Among the contenders in the final two weekends, the Buffs perhaps do not have the most demanding schedule in terms of opponents — they play at Cal, Stanford, and Utah — but they are the only one of the top five contenders who no longer have any home games left. And since joining the Pac-12, the Buffs have compiled three consecutive road wins in league play just once.
Oregon has the most favorable schedule, with three home games remaining against Oregon State, Cal, and Stanford. The Arizona schools have to travel to Los Angeles this week for some huge games against USC and UCLA, then end the season next week with home dates against the Washington schools.
“We know we shouldn’t be losing those games in the first place,” CU point guard McKinley Wright IV said. “We’re competing for a conference championship and we know we have to win games. We’re ready to bounce-back, especially after ones we shouldn’t have lost.”