Dominance of Oregon at home to be tested for CU Buffs men’s basketball

17th-ranked Ducks 0-9 all-time in Boulder

BOULDER, CO - Jan. 2, 2020: ...
Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer
BOULDER, CO – Jan. 2, 2020: University of Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV takes a shot over Chris Duarte during a PAC 12 game against the University of Oregon on Thursday at the Coors Event Center on the CU campus in Boulder. (Photo by Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

As a Pac-12 Conference member, the Buffaloes have never won at Arizona. And despite one of the top home court advantages in the league, Colorado has suffered upset losses in Boulder against Oregon State the past two years.

Sometimes the home-road quirks endured by a particular basketball program are difficult to explain. The same can be said of CU’s dominance at home against Oregon. The Buffs often have hosted ranked, more talented Oregon teams at the CU Events Center but have always emerged unscathed. That track record will be put to the test once again on Thursday as the Buffs host No. 17 Oregon in a battle between Pac-12 clubs expecting to contend for the conference crown.

The Ducks are 0-9 all-time at CU and 0-8 since the Buffs joined the Pac-12. This will be the third time in four years Oregon has visited Boulder while ranked in the AP top 25.

On Wednesday, the game time was changed from 9 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the CU Events Center. While CU fans still can’t flock to the arena, they no longer will have to burn the midnight oil to watch a critical game for the Buffs.

“I couldn’t tell you (why),” CU senior guard McKinley Wright IV said. “I wasn’t here when it was happening before. All I know is when I got here, they told me that they’ve never won here. I’m just doing everything I can, and my team is doing everything they can, to keep it that way. I’m sure their coach is telling them they have a chance to make history and do something that has never been done, which is win in Boulder. It’s the other way from our end. We’re trying to keep that from happening. It’s going to be a battle for 40 minutes.”

Oregon is the only Pac-12 team ranked in this week’s AP top 25 — Arizona, the Buffs, and UCLA all are receiving votes — and coach Dana Altman once again has kept the Ducks competitive amid roster overhaul and injury setbacks.

On Dec. 17, sophomore center N’Faly Dante suffered a season-ending torn ACL in a game against San Francisco. The Ducks still are awaiting the return of guard Will Richardson, who averaged 11.0 points last season but has yet to play this year after undergoing thumb surgery on Dec. 2.

Oregon, however, once again has been able to reload on the fly, in part by adding top-flight transfers. Forward Eugene Omoruyi, a Rutgers transfer, has emerged as an early Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate and goes into Thursday’s showdown ranking second in the league with 18.7 points per game. Duquesne transfer Eric Williams Jr. is averaging 12.7 points and 6.9 rebounds. One prominent holdover from 2019-20, senior guard Chris Duarte, is averaging 16.7 points and arrives at CU averaging 21 points over the past three games with a .537 (22-for-41) shooting percentage during that span.

“Oregon always has interchangeable parts, but this year probably more so. Especially with N’Faly Dante going down with the ACL,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “They’re all between 6-6 and 6-8. They’re athletic. They can put the ball on the floor. They can shoot the ball from three. The Omoruyi kid is a really talented low-post scorer for a kid that’s 6-6. He’s got really good skills down there and he shoots threes. He’s a true inside-out guy.”

No. 17 Oregon Ducks at CU Buffs men’s basketball

TIPOFF: Thursday, 3 p.m., CU Events Center.

BROADCAST: TV — FOX Sports 1; Radio — KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Oregon 8-1, 3-0 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 7-3, 1-2.

COACHES: Oregon — Dana Altman, 11th season (267-104, 677-341 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 11th season (217-137, 273-203 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Oregon — F Eugene Omoruyi, R-Sr., 18.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg; G Chris Duarte, Sr., 16.7 ppg, 4.8 ppg, .439 3-point percentage; F Eric Williams, R-Jr., 12.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg. Colorado — G McKinley Wright, Sr., 15.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 4.5 rpg; F Jeriah Horne, Sr., 10.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg; F Evan Battey, R-Jr., 9.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg.

WHAT TO WATCH: CU has been outrebounded in three of the past four games and faces a Ducks team that ranks second in the Pac-12 in rebounding margin at plus-7.4. The Buffs will be challenged to get back on track on the glass.

NOTES: On Wednesday, Boyle celebrated his 58th birthday…With Oregon’s win last week against Stanford, Altman moved into a tie with former Cal and Stanford coach Mike Montgomery for 23rd-place among Division I coaching wins…Oregon ranks second in the Pac-12 in overall field goal percentage (.474) but just seventh in 3-point percentage (.343). The Buffs boast the opposite ratio, ranking seventh in overall field goal percentage (.455) and third in 3-point percentage (.372)…Through Tuesday’s games, CU still essentially led the nation in free throw shooting at .850. Officially, the Buffs are third behind Colgate (.909) and Lafayette (.861), but those two teams have played just two games…Wright led last year’s home win against the Ducks with 21 points, eight assists, and five rebounds…Wright is on pace to become the first Pac-12 player to compile at least 1,600 points, 600 rebounds, and 600 assists in his career…CU center Dallas Walton remains questionable due to a lower leg injury that has kept him sidelined the past two games.