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Turning momentum around won’t be easy for CU Buffs at Oregon State

Beavers have won five consecutive home games

Colorado's McKinley Wright IV takes a shot during the Buffs' loss to the Ducks in Eugene, Ore.
Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV takes a shot during the Buffs’ loss to the Ducks in Eugene, Ore.

EUGENE, Ore. — Following Thursday night’s loss at Oregon, Pac-12 Network basketball studio analyst Don MacLean put a voice to the rock-in-a-hard place situation looming over the Colorado men’s basketball team right now.

MacLean offered the thought that he hopes the Buffs aren’t thinking too much about last season’s late-season slide, while at the same time mentioning the idea CU can still draw on that unfortunate experience to make certain it doesn’t happen again.

And therein lies the conundrum for the Buffs as they head into the final road game of the regular season Saturday at Oregon State. Naturally, the Buffs don’t want to hit the floor with a sky-is-falling mindset every time something goes awry. Yet given the loss at Oregon marked the first time this season CU has suffered back-to-back losses, comparisons to last year’s season-ending five-game losing streak will be inevitable until the Buffs turn things around.

“We’ve got to come back Saturday ready to go and bring that same energy and intensity,” CU senior D’Shawn Schwartz said. “If we come with that fight, we can split on this road trip. It’s a must-win times three. At this point of the year, we remember what happened last year and we want to make sure that doesn’t happen again. And we can do that starting on Saturday. If we come out with that same energy and effort, we guard and play 40 minutes like we did in our first half (at Oregon), we can pull out.”

The Buffs posted a thorough 78-49 defeat against Oregon State at home on Feb. 8, but the Beavers have been a much different team at home, particularly lately. OSU’s win against Utah on Thursday night was its fifth consecutive home win, a run that includes a victory against league-leading USC. The Beavers also won at Oregon a month ago.

Although CU has lost consecutive games for the first time this year, reducing the Buffs’ chances for a Pac-12 regular season title to a long shot at best, they remain well-positioned for an NCAA Tournament berth if they can pick up one last road win and get results next week at home against the Los Angeles schools.

CU entered Friday’s play around the nation still ranked No. 17 at KenPom.com, with a NET ranking of No. 21. With fans fretful the bottom will soon fall out on another promising season, and the media asking after every setback how to keep the recent rut from cascading into a much bigger problem, CU head coach Tad Boyle remains resolute in his attempt to keep his squad focused on near-term goals.

“We’re going to get Oregon State’s best shot. There’s no question in my mind,” Boyle said. “They’re going to be loaded for bear. They’re playing well right now. We’d better get our hard hats on. Because this (Oregon game) is one we felt like we could’ve won and we didn’t win.

“It’s the next game. It’s Oregon State on Saturday. What lies beyond that means absolutely nothing to me and should mean nothing to our team. No different than after the Cal game, this (Oregon game) was the most important game. After the Stanford game, the Cal game was the most important game. After Saturday night, USC will be the most important game.”

CU Buffs men’s basketball at Oregon State Beavers

TIPOFF: Saturday, 6 p.m. MT, Gill Coliseum, Corvallis, Ore.

BROADCAST: TV — ESPNU; Radio — KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Colorado 16-7, 10-6 Pac-12 Conference; Oregon State 11-10, 7-8.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 11th season (226-141, 282-207 overall). Oregon State — Wayne Tinkle, 7th season (104-106, 262, 197 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G McKinley Wright, Sr., 14.2 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.3 rpg; F Jeriah Horne, G-Sr., 11.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, .430 3-point percentage; F Evan Battey, R-Jr., 10.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg. Oregon State — G Ethan Thompson, Sr., 16.1 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.6 rpg; G Jarod Lucas, So., 12.6 ppg, .405 3-point percentage; F Warith Alatishe, Jr., 9.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg.

WHAT TO WATCH: The Buffs have enjoyed a strong season from 3-point range, but have gone just 9-for-42 (.214). CU will be challenged to get back on track against an OSU squad that ranks second in Pac-12 games with a defensive 3-point percentage of .306.

NOTES: In Thursday’s loss at Oregon, the Buffs recorded more turnover (17) than assists (8). CU has suffered more turnovers than assists just five times this year, but two of those occasions have occurred in the past two games. CU also had 10 turnovers with just five assists in last week’s loss at Cal…Wright has struggle from long range of late, going 0-for-8 on 3-pointers over the past four games. Wright needs three points to become the ninth CU player to reach the 1,700-point mark and needs 13 points to pass Josh Scott for No. 8 on CU’s all-time scoring list…CU 7-footer Dallas Walton is averaging just 2.9 rebounds per game, but he has averaged 4.8 over the past four games…Buffs senior D’Shawn Schwartz posted a 1.25 assist-to-turnover rate the past two seasons (90 assists, 72 turnovers) but has struggled in that department this season. After recording four turnovers without an assist at Oregon, Schwartz now owns 26 assists against 37 turnovers this year…This is the Buffs’ final true road game of the season, and CU returns home to face the Los Angeles schools next week beginning with a Thursday date against USC.