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Ahead of long road swing, CU men’s basketball set to battle Oregon State

Beavers have won past two visits to CU Events Center

BOULDER, CO - Feb. 6, 2021:Colorado's ...
BOULDER, CO – February 6, 2021:Colorado’s Dallas Walton gets a rebound in a crowd during the Arizona at Colorado men’s basketball game in Boulder on February 6, 2021.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Of all the Pac-12 Conference teams that could easily trample the usually-reliable home court advantage of the Colorado Buffaloes, one of the least likely to fit that bill is Oregon State.

Still, since the start of the 2018-19 season, the Buffs have topped every Pac-12 Conference foe at home except one. And that’s Oregon State.

Coming off a tough 82-79 home win on Saturday night against Arizona, the Buffs will have an opportunity to generate some momentum ahead of a challenging run on the road while vanquishing some orange-and-black demons when they take on the Beavers on Monday evening.

The game originally was scheduled for Jan. 9 but was postponed due to coronavirus issues at OSU. The Beavers have won their past two games at the CU Events Center, stunning the Buffs both times with comeback victories.

“They’re playing very well right now,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “They swept the Washington schools at home and they beat Oregon at Oregon, which a lot of people don’t do. Oregon State is going to come in and they’re going to play a lot of zone. We know that. They’ve got a lot of new players that our players aren’t familiar with. They’re playing really well right now and we’re going to have to work on our zone offense (on Sunday) and that’s what we’re going to do to be ready for the Beavers.

“They’ve played well here the last few years and they gave us a couple of losses. We’ve got a couple guys banged up so we’re probably not going to go very long (Sunday) but we’re going to spend a lot of time on film and working on our zone offense.”

Two years ago, a struggling Tyler Bey was benched for the bulk of the second half in what turned into a 76-74 Oregon State win in a game the Buffs led by nine points late in the first half. It proved to be a turning point for CU, as the Buffs won 12 of their next 15 games while reaching the Pac-12 semifinals and NIT quarterfinals. Bey went on to win the Pac-12 Most Improved Player Award.

Last year, the Buffs were coming off two top-15 wins in the previous two weeks, including a victory against a fourth-ranked Oregon squad three days earlier. CU led by 11 with under eight minutes to play before the Beavers rallied.

The Buffs are hopeful they got that sort of late collapse out of their system last week against Utah, and Saturday’s win kept CU at No. 18 in both the NET rankings and at KenPom.com. The Buffs also begin the week in sole possession of third-place in the Pac-12 with an 8-4 league mark, and USC’s win on Saturday against UCLA brought those two front-runners (both have 9-2  Pac-12 records) a little closer to the middle pack currently led by the Buffs.

Still, as OSU has shown during its past two visits to Boulder, the Buffs can’t be comfortable with their situation, and with four consecutive road games looming, a win against the Beavers is almost imperative if CU hopes to remain in contention in the Pac-12.

“I feel like it was a statement win for us,” CU point guard McKinley Wright IV said after the Arizona victory. “They beat us down in Tucson by 14 and that one hurt. We really wanted to come back and get this one.”

Oregon State Beavers at CU Buffs men’s basketball

TIPOFF: Monday, 5 p.m., CU Events Center.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Networks; Radio — KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Oregon State 10-7, 6-5 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 14-5, 8-4.

COACHES: Oregon State — Wayne Tinkle, 7th season (103-103, 261-194 overall). Colorado — Tad Boyle, 11th season (224-139, 280-205 overall)

KEY PLAYERS: Oregon State — G Ethan Thompson, Sr., 16.1 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.5 rpg; G Jarod Lucas, So., 13.1 ppg, .432 3-point percentage; F Warith Alatishe, Jr., 8.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg. Colorado — G McKinley Wright IV, Sr., 14.9 ppg, 5.7 apg, 4.3 rpg; F Evan Battey, R-Jr., 11.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, .514 field goal percentage; F Jeriah Horne, G-Sr., 11.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg.

WHAT TO WATCH: CU has been outrebounded in four consecutive games but have a chance to turn that around against an OSU team that ranks ninth in league games in rebounding margin.

NOTES: CU shot a season-high .558 from the floor during Saturday’s win against Arizona. It was the sixth time this season (third in Pac-12 play) the Buffs have shot at least 50 percent…Over the past four games, Wright and Battey have combined to go 37-for-37 on free throws. Battey is 19-for-19 and Wright is 18-for-18…OSU’s Ethan Thompson scored all 12 of his points during the final 8:37 of Saturday’s win against Washington State and moved into 10th-place on the Beavers’ all-time scoring list…CU hits the road later this week for the Bay Area trip against Stanford on Thursday (5 p.m. MT, ESPNU) and Cal on Saturday (8 p.m. MT, ESPNU).