EUGENE, Ore. — For the first time this season, the Colorado men’s basketball team has a little capital in its corner.
It will go to waste if the Buffaloes fail to build on the momentum through the remainder of their Pacific Northwest business trip, a point head coach Tad Boyle was making to his club even as Tuesday’s late-night celebration still was unfolding.
CU shook off its two discouraging losses at home last week to the nationally-ranked Los Angeles schools, as well as a rough start on Tuesday that had the Buffs down by 15 points less than six minutes into the game, to post a stirring comeback victory at Oregon.
It was the Buffs’ first win in Eugene in nine years. More importantly, it was CU’s first Quad 1 win in the NET rankings formula, which led to a nine-spot jump for the Buffs to No. 76 in Wednesday’s edition of the NET.
It was a critical win and one that at least gives the Buffs an opportunity to play their way into NCAA Tournament contention. Yet the effort will be for naught if CU can’t produce results during the remainder of the road trip, which continues on Thursday night at Washington in a venue that has been equally frustrating for CU.
“That’s the challenge we have right now. We have to not be satisfied,” Boyle said. “We’ve got to stay hungry, stay humble. We’re 5-4 in this league. We’re not at the top of this league in the standings. We tripped up a couple games at home. You always say you want to win at home and split on the road. Well guess what? You lose two at home, splitting on the road ain’t good enough to get you to the top half of this league.
“If you’re in the top half of this league down the stretch, maybe you have a chance to compete for a championship. We get another crack at Arizona, but we’re done with USC and UCLA. It’s just about winning the next game and figuring out what we have to do. That’s all we have to think about right now.”
CU has lost 11 of its past 12 games at Washington, including the past five in a row. The Huskies have sported a couple Pac-12 title-contending teams during that run, but more often than not the respective state of the teams has done little to give the Buffs any edge in Seattle.
Last year, for instance, a Buffs team that eventually reached the Pac-12 tournament title game and the second round of the NCAA Tournament manhandled Washington by 23 points in a game played as a nonconference tilt in Las Vegas. One month later a Huskies team that was just 1-11, and ultimately finished 5-21, hit 12 3-pointers while holding CU to a 1-for-18 mark from the arc to post an upset victory. Washington was at No. 143 in Wednesday’s NET rankings, but the Huskies won three consecutive games before getting routed at Oregon on Sunday.
“We need to come out with the energy that we need early in the game,” said CU point guard Keeshawn Barthelemy, whose 19 points at Oregon was a career-high for a conference game. “Sometimes we come out flat because our energy isn’t where it’s supposed to be. I’m a big part of that, and I’ve got to be a person who starts the games off better.”
CU Buffs men’s basketball at Washington Huskies
TIPOFF: Thursday, 9 p.m. MT, Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle, Wash.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.
RECORDS: Colorado 13-6, 5-4 Pac-12 Conference; Washington 9-8, 4-3.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 12th season (246-149, 302-215 overall); Washington — Mike Hopkins, 5th season (80-73 at UW and overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — F Jabari Walker, So., 13.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg; F Evan Battey, R-Sr., 12.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, .524 field goal percentage; G Keeshawn Barthelemy, R-So., 11.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 apg; F Tristan da Silva, So., 9.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg. Washington — G Terrell Brown, Gr., 20.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.9 apg; F Emmitt Matthews, Sr., 11.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg; G Jamal Bey, Sr., 8.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg.
NOTES: CU will attempt to win three consecutive road games within conference play for the first time since 2013, when the Buffs posted three straight wins at Oregon, Oregon State, and Stanford…Washington had won three consecutive games before suffering a 28-point loss at Oregon on Sunday… Da Silva went 9-for-15 and scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Buffs’ 78-64 home win against UW on Jan. 9…Walker’s 9.9 rebounds per game in Pac-12 play leads the league…Through the season’s first 15 games Walker, a .523 3-point shooter a year ago, had posted a 3-point percentage of .214. In the past four games he is 6-for-14 (.429), and during that span he also is 18-for-20 at the free throw line…With the Buffs’ 20-for-22 effort at the free throw line in Tuesday’s win at Oregon, CU moved into second in the Pac-12 in overall free throw percentage (.740)…The Buffs have posted a shooting percentage of at least .500 six times this season, including in each of the past two games…CU completes its three-game road trip on Sunday night at Washington State (8 p.m. MT, ESPN2).