Timing is everything.
Had the Colorado men’s basketball team played at Oregon as originally intended on Dec. 30, the Buffaloes would have faced a Ducks team that was just 7-6 and a few weeks removed from an embarrassing overtime loss at home against Arizona State. If the game had occurred on the first attempt at a makeup date on Jan. 3, the state of the Ducks wouldn’t have been much different.
Instead, the Buffs finally will visit Oregon on Tuesday. And now the Ducks are the hottest team in the Pac-12 Conference.
While the Buffs have been unable to come up with the signature wins that would push CU into NCAA Tournament contention, the Ducks have shaken off their uneven start to do just that.
“That’s the way the ball bounces,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “The two things that I see is that number one, they’re playing so much harder. They’re playing with great effort and energy at both ends, offensively and defensively. They weren’t playing with a lot of energy (early) at least on the defensive end that I saw. That’s really picked up.
“And number two, they’re shooting the ball well. It’s amazing when shots go in, it gives you sometimes more energy and gives you more pep in your step.”
In addition to the December overtime loss at home against Arizona State, Oregon also suffered a 32-point loss against Brigham Young at home on Nov. 16. Although the Ducks bring a six-game winning streak into Tuesday’s twice-rescheduled date, their turnaround might have actually begun with their most recent loss, when they took No. 1 Baylor down to the wire on Dec. 18.
In the past two weeks, the Ducks have served notice they are ready to be a factor in the Pac-12 race, while also providing hope the Pac-12 won’t be reduced to a three-bid league once the NCAA Tournament field is released. In a span of six days, Oregon posted three consecutive road wins, including an impressive sweep of the nationally ranked Los Angeles schools to become the first Pac-12 team to defeat two top-10 teams on the same road trip. On Sunday, the Ducks dismantled Washington by 28 points, the largest margin of victory ever in a regional rivalry that dates back to 1904.
For the Buffs, Boyle on Monday confirmed that senior guard Elijah Parquet is expected to return to the rotation after missing the home losses this past weekend against USC and UCLA due to a lower right leg injury. CU’s defense still was solid without Parquet, a Pac-12 All-Defense selection, as the Buffs held USC to a season-low field goal percentage (.371) and kept the potent Bruins under their season scoring average and season field goal percentage.
However, the Buffs committed 37 turnovers in those two games, and Boyle conceded an experienced, low-turnover player like Parquet might have helped CU get better looks at crunch time against both foes.
“We knew there were going to be growing pains this year, and there have been some growing pains. And we’ve been able to win some games doing it,” Boyle said. “Guess what? You get into conference play, and you play teams like USC and UCLA, those growing pains turn into losses. Because the good teams, that margin for error, it doesn’t get it done.”
CU Buffs men’s basketball at Oregon Ducks
TIPOFF: Tuesday, 8 p.m. MT, Knight Arena, Eugene, Ore.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.
RECORDS: Colorado 12-6, 4-4 Pac-12 Conference; Oregon 12-6, 5-2.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 12th season (245-149, 301-215 overall); Oregon — Dana Altman, 12th season (292-116, 702-359 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — F Jabari Walker, So., 13.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg; F Evan Battey, R-Sr., 12.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, .532 field goal percentage; G Keeshawn Barthelemy, R-So., 10.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.5 apg. Oregon — G Will Richardson, Sr., 14.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.3 rpg, .460 3-point percentage; G Jacob Young, R-Sr., 11.1 ppg; G De’Vion Harmon, Jr., 10.4 ppg; C N’Faly Dante, Jr., 8.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, .716 field goal percentage.
NOTES: Oregon earned 19 points (32nd overall) in the latest AP Top 25 vote released on Monday…The Buffs are just 2-9 all-time at Oregon with losses in their past six visits to Eugene…CU looks to avoid its first three-game losing streak since a five-game slide that ended the 2019-20 season…The Buffs have shot .418 (23-for-55) from 3-point range over the past three games…CU is averaging 13.8 turnovers per game. Only Stanford (15.9) is averaging more in the Pac-12…Oregon began the week ranked second in the league in 3-point percentage (.359)…CU’s three-game road trip continues on Thursday night at Washington (9 p.m. MT, ESPN2).