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CU men’s basketball notes: Buffs playing to level of competition in Pac-12

UCLA’s Johnny Juzang named Pac-12 player of the week

BOULDER, CO - Jan. 30, 2021: ...
BOULDER, CO – January 30, 2021: Colorado’s D’Shawn Schwartz shoots a three during the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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The numbers can be parsed in all sorts of ways, but at the end of the day there is one primary reason why Colorado is looking more like a team angling to stay atop the crowded middle pack in the Pac-12 Conference than one taking aim at the regular season championship.

Simply put, the Buffaloes generally are playing to the level of the competition, whether that is posting wins against the NCAA Tournament-caliber teams ahead of them in the standings or continually stubbing their collective toes against the teams trailing them.

“It’s frustrating as hell is what it is,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “It’s frustrating. It doesn’t matter what league you’re in. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the Big Ten or the Pac-12 or the Big Sky, you name the league. You’d better be ready to play every night you step out, because you can get beat. The last-place team can beat the first-place team or the fourth-place team or whatever the heck we were going in (to Cal). It can happen on any night if you let it happen. And we let it happen (at Cal). We let this happen.

“We’ve got to get better, and I’ve got to do a better job.”

CU begins the week at 10-5 within the league, falling two games back in the loss column to third-place Oregon, which the Buffs visit late Thursday night (9 p.m. MT, ESPN2). Saturday’s stunning loss at a Cal squad that entered the game just 2-13 in league play occurred 48 hours after the Buffs posted an impressive road win against a much more talented Stanford team.

It continued an occasional bad habit that certainly qualifies as a trend now. Against the teams alongside CU in the top half of the Pac-12 standings, the Buffs are 5-2. Against the teams in the lower half of the standings, CU is 5-3, with losses in two of those past three matchups (that ledger doesn’t include a December win against Washington in a contest played as a nonconference game). That disparity may not necessarily leap off the page, but the two teams at the very bottom of the league standings –Washington and Cal — began the week having posted two of their combined five Pac-12 wins against the Buffs.

The bright side for the Buffs, at least in terms of that trend, is that three of the final five regular season games are against the current top three teams in the league — Thursday at Oregon, and then next week’s home dates against USC and UCLA. CU also plays at Oregon State on Saturday and has a makeup date at home against Arizona State that has not yet been rescheduled.

Juzang honored

After putting together a pair of high-scoring games during UCLA’s split in Washington, Bruins sophomore Johnny Juzang was named the Pac-12 player of the week.

Backed by an 8-for-8 night at the free throw line, Juzang scored 25 points in UCLA’s loss at Washington State last week. In a 64-61 win at Washington two days later, Juzang became the first UCLA player since Reggie Miller (on Dec. 19, 1986) to score half the team’s points, as he hit five 3-pointers and finished with 32 points. Juzang also grabbed seven rebounds in each game.

USC’s Evan Mobley collected the freshman of the week award for the second consecutive week and the sixth time overall in 12 weeks this season.

Notable

USC remained the only Pac-12 team ranked in the AP Top 25 this week, moving up three spots to No. 17. CU lost 10 points from last week’s vote and dropped unofficially from No. 26 to No. 30. Oregon landed just one point behind the Buffs but reached No. 25 in the coaches poll…The game time for a key matchup Saturday with Arizona visiting USC has been set for 4 p.m. MT (FOX)…CU senior D’Shawn Schwartz turned 22 on Monday.