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Different Oregon squad awaiting CU Buffs men’s basketball in Pac-12 rematch

Colorado's Luke O'Brien has been a key to the Buffaloes' efficiency in rebounding. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Colorado’s Luke O’Brien has been a key to the Buffaloes’ efficiency in rebounding. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

It was only three weeks ago when the Colorado men’s basketball team delivered a historic thumping upon the Oregon Ducks.

In a matchup of perhaps the two most beguiling teams in the Pac-12 Conference, it will be a much different Ducks team the Buffaloes encounter in the rematch. And that fresh look includes the first look at the Buffs’ old friend, Keeshawn Barthelemy.

CU and Oregon have eerily similar profiles. Both squads have knocked off the nation’s elite, with the Buffs taking down current No. 4 Tennessee in early November and the Ducks defeating Arizona, now ranked sixth, just two weeks ago. Yet both teams also have lost to the Pac-12 bottom dwellers, with CU losing at Cal on Dec. 31 and Oregon coming off a loss last week at Stanford.

Colorado and Oregon are neck-and-neck within the league in a number of statistical categories. This makes it easy to wonder if the result of a matchup between two middle-of-the-pack Pac-12 teams on Thursday night in Eugene could mark a separation point for the winner.

“They’ve got all hands on deck,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “It’s going to be a completely different Oregon team than what we saw in Boulder a few weeks ago. And they’ll be coming at us with both barrels loaded. We don’t expect it. We’ll get it.”

During the Buffs’ dominant home win against the Ducks on Jan. 5, Oregon welcomed back to the rotation 7-foot sophomore Nate Bittle, who played in the first six games of the season before missing the next eight due to an injury, and South Carolina transfer Jermaine Couisnard, who missed the first 14 games of the season before finally making his Oregon debut at CU.

Two games later, the Ducks also welcomed back Barthelemy, the former CU guard who transferred to Oregon last spring. Barthelemy played in the season’s first four games before missing the next 11 due to an injury. In the four games since his return, Barthelemy has shot .440 overall and 3-for-12 on 3-pointers while averaging 8.3 points.

“It was Bittle and Couisnard’s first game back, so they were probably still getting adjusted and were a little rusty,” Boyle said. “They’ve obviously played their way into form and into shape. And then they didn’t have Keeshawn when they were here and now he’s back and has played a handful of games.

“This is a big game and a great opportunity. They’re a good home team and have a good home record. Much like we do. Doesn’t mean we can’t beat them there. We’ve proven that we can. But it isn’t going to be easy.”

Oregon and the Buffs feature remarkably similar statistical profiles. CU ranks fifth in the Pac-12 with a .449 field goal percentage. The Ducks are just a few fractions behind (.448) and rank sixth. Both teams sport a .416 defensive field goal percentage. CU is 10th in the league in 3-point percentage (.315). The Ducks are 11th (.304). Colorado is eighth in defensive field goal percentage at .325 and Oregon is ninth at .329. They also are the worst two free throw shooting teams in the conference, with Oregon ranking 11th (.683) while CU sits at the bottom (.669).

“Defensively, we’re up there in defensive efficiency, but offensively we’re really inconsistent,” CU forward Luke O’Brien said. ”We need to take care of the ball, as people have seen. But we’ve just got to be more consistent on the offensive end and then take care of what we do on defense. And then we can string together a lot of wins in the Pac-12.”

CU Buffs men’s basketball at Oregon Ducks

TIPOFF: Thursday, 7 p.m. MT, Knight Arena, Eugene, Ore.

TV/RADIO: TV — Pac-12 Network. Radio — KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Colorado 12-9, 4-6 Pac-12 Conference; Oregon 11-9, 5-4.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 13th season (266-164, 322-230 overall). Oregon — Dana Altman, 13th season (311-134, 721-377 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G KJ Simpson, 6-2, So. (17.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.8 apg); F Tristan da Silva, 6-9, Jr. (15.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, .525 field goal percentage); F J’Vonne Hadley, 6-6, Jr. (8.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, .519 field goal percentage); G Julian Hammond III, 6-3, So. (6.6 ppg, 2.0 apg, .340 3-point percentage). Oregon — G Will Richardson, 6-5, Sr. (14.0 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4.0 rpg); G Jermaine Couisnard, 6-4, R-Sr. (13.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg); C N’Faly Dante, 6-11, Sr. (13.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, .620 field goal percentage); F Quincy Guerrier, 6-8, Sr. (9.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg).

NOTES: CU topped Oregon 68-41 on Jan. 5. It was the low scoring mark for the Ducks in 13 seasons under Altman….Couisnard, a transfer from South Carolina, made his season debut for Oregon against at CU on Jan. 5. In six games he has shot 12-for-28 (.429) on 3-pointers and 20-for-24 (.833) at the free throw line…CU had lost six consecutive games at Knight Arena before posting an 82-78 win there last year. Da Silva enjoyed a big game, going 5-for-6 with 15 points…The Buffs are just 1-5 in true road games, although that mark doesn’t include a Nov. 13 win against nationally-ranked Tennessee in Nashville…Richardson went 1-for-9 and was held to five points during Oregon’s loss at Colorado three weeks ago…The Buffs have shot just .288 on 3-pointers in their six true road games (32-for-111)…CU’s road trip continues on Saturday night at Oregon State (8:30 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).