The Colorado men’s basketball team had been a strong road team the previous two seasons.
Two years ago, when the Buffaloes last reached the NCAA Tournament, they went 6-6 on the road. With a revamped rotation last season, the Buffs were 6-4 in true road games, winning the final four in a row during a late push that landed an NIT berth.
CU had not previously posted six wins in true road games since the 2003-04 season. To do it this year, the Buffs have to record an unlikely sweep of their final five road games. Short of that, however, any repeat push to a possible NIT berth will require the Buffs to start coming up with some results on the road.
That has been an elusive goal for CU this year, which takes a 1-5 mark in true road games into a two-game trip that begins at Oregon on Thursday (7 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).
Granted, that doesn’t take into account CU’s most impressive performance of the season, a win against Tennessee on Nov. 13 in Nashville on a neutral floor that was neutral in name only. So while Sunday’s home win against Washington State stopped the bleeding from a three-game losing streak, and kept the Buffs at a competitive place in Monday’s NET rankings (No. 66), CU is unlikely to get a better opportunity to reverse its road fortunes than during this week’s trip to Oregon.
Following Sunday’s win, head coach Tad Boyle discussed the dramatic home-road splits being put together by forward Tristan da Silva. But he could have been speaking about the entire team.
“He’s got to string it together,” Boyle said. “Tristan has been really good at home. Where Tristan has struggled is on the road. Now is an opportunity for Tristan to take his game on the road, to Oregon in Eugene on Thursday and Corvallis on Saturday, and prove that he can do it on the road. Because at home, he’s as good a player in the league as there is. He can do that on the road, too. He just has to prove that.”
With his 27-point effort against Washington State, da Silva is averaging 22.1 points in his past eight home games. In the six true road games this season, da Silva has averaged just 9.5 points while shooting .352 overall and .211 on 3-pointers. However, Oregon is one venue that has been kind to da Silva, as his 5-for-6, 15-point effort in Eugene last year helped lead CU to its first road win against the Ducks in nine years.
Of course, da Silva hardly is the only Buffs player that has struggled to be consistent. Guard KJ Simpson broke out of a four-and-a-half-game slump in dramatic fashion with his late heroics against Washington State, but the Buffs have struggled to produce consistent support for Simpson and da Silva. J’Vonne Hadley is the Buffs’ third-leading scorer at 8.5 points per game. CU hasn’t featured a third-leading scorer with a scoring average that low since Austin Dufault averaged 8.2 points as a true freshman in 2008-09.
At this point, it’s unlikely the Buffs will emerge as a premier offensive team. But when they limit turnovers, they can be effective. That was on display once again on Sunday. CU committed its first 11 turnovers in the first 13 minutes, 9 seconds against WSU. Moments later, the Buffs’ deficit reached 10 points.
Yet the Buffs committed only six more turnovers over the final 27 minutes. Not coincidentally, CU regained the lead by halftime and trailed only briefly the rest of the way.
“Playing at our pace and not letting teams speed us up,” Simpson said. “When we just move the ball and don’t care who gets the shot and just play at our pace, our game, that’s when you see our turnovers at a low number. We just have to start doing that from the beginning of the game.”