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Comeback bid falls short as Oregon holds off Colorado men’s basketball

Colorado's KJ Simpson, center, goes for a layup against Oregon on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023 in Eugene, Ore. (University of Colorado athletics/courtesy photo)
Colorado’s KJ Simpson, center, goes for a layup against Oregon on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023 in Eugene, Ore. (University of Colorado athletics/courtesy photo)

Snapshot: Oregon Ducks 75, CU Buffs MBB 69

Turning point: The teams traded runs for most of the second half, but it was five consecutive points from Oregon’s Quincy Guerrier with the Buffs trailing by just one point that made the difference down the stretch.

Buff of the game: Co-winners in Eugene with Tristan da Silva and Nique Clifford. Da Silva went 8-for-14 overall, 3-for-3 on 3-pointers and 4-for-4 at the free throw line, finishing with a game-high 23 points. Clifford went 7-for-11 overall and 3-for-5 on 3-pointers, recording a career-high 17 points.

What’s next?: The Buffs will try to salvage a split of the Oregon trip at Oregon State on Saturday (8:30 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).

EUGENE, Ore. — It was a mixed bag defensively for the Colorado men’s basketball team.

When the Buffaloes turned to the press to attempt a second-half comeback, the effort did the trick, allowing the Buffs to rally. But when Oregon was able to run its offense, they converted with relative ease against Colorado’s defense.

That combination turned an interesting comeback into another tough defeat for the Buffs, as Oregon held off a CU rally to send the Buffs to a 75-69 defeat on Thursday night at Knight Arena.

It was the fourth loss in five games for the Buffs, who also missed an opportunity to post a two-game regular season sweep against the Ducks for just the second time since joining the Pac-12 Conference.

“We weren’t able to guard the ball off the bounce in the first half or the second half. And that’s a big key to the game with Oregon,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “So that hurt us. But for them to shoot 49% and outrebound us, and we shoot 37%, how the heck are we in the game? The reason we’re in the game is because our guys fight and they compete and they scratch and they claw. But we had too many guys with empty performances tonight on both the offensive and defensive end.”

Oregon led 32-26 at halftime and gradually extended its lead early in the second half, using an 8-2 run to push CU’s deficit to 11 points. A 3-pointer from Oregon guard and former Buffs player Keeshawn Barthelemy kept the Ducks’ advantage at 11 points midway through the second half.

The Buffs responded, with Tristan da Silva and Nique Clifford combining on a 9-0 run that pulled Colorado within two points. Oregon answered with the next six points to push its advantage back to eight points, but da Silva scored the next seven to get the Buffs within a point.

That seesaw continued as Oregon’s Quincy Guerrier scored the next five points, and the Buffs didn’t get closer than four points during the final 2 minutes, 55 seconds.

Clifford broke out of a slump in a big way, going 7-for-11 with three 3-pointers and a career-high 17 points. Da Silva continued to torment Oregon, going 8-for-14 from the field and 4-for-4 on free throws to finish with a game-high 23 points.

While da Silva and Clifford carried the load offensively, they received little help. Leading scorer KJ Simpson went 2-for-13 with just eight points, although he recorded five rebounds and four assists while enjoying his first zero-turnover game of the season. Although Clifford and da Silva shot a combined .600 (15-for-25) with 40 points, the rest of the team managed only 29 points while shooting .225 (9-for-40).

“We tried to extend the game there at the end and tried to make Oregon miss free throws, which they didn’t do,” da Silva said. “It’s kind of hard to get back in that aspect. Our press did us well to get us back in the game and disrupt them, but we just couldn’t quite pull it off all the way.”

Barthelemy enjoyed a big game against his old mates, matching a season-high with 13 points while going 3-for-4 on 3-pointers. Oregon outrebounded the Buffs 38-34 despite playing without starting forward and leading rebounder N’Faly Dante, who was a late scratch due to a knee injury.

Colorado entered the game ranked last in the Pac-12 in free throw shooting but put together a 13-for-14 mark at the line. Oregon, ranked 11th in the league in free throw percentage, went 16-for-20 and hit 5-of-6 in the final minute to hold off the Buffs.

“The fight and the competitiveness of this group, I don’t question it,” Boyle said. “I just question our ability to finish, our ability to string stops together. We weren’t able to do that tonight. We couldn’t get over the hump and ended up with a loss.”

Oregon 75, Colorado 69

COLORADO (12-10, 4-7 Pac 12)

da Silva 8-14 4-4 23, Lovering 1-2 0-0 2, Clifford 7-11 0-0 17, Hadley 1-5 0-0 2, Simpson 2-13 4-4 8, O’Brien 2-8 0-0 5, Hammond 2-8 3-4 7, Gabbidon 0-3 2-2 2, Wright 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 24-65 13-14 69.

OREGON (12-9, 6-4)

Guerrier 6-11 2-2 16, Bittle 5-9 0-1 11, Couisnard 2-8 4-4 8, Richardson 2-8 4-5 8, Soares 2-4 5-7 9, Barthelemy 5-7 0-0 13, Ware 2-2 1-1 5, Wur 2-3 0-0 5, Rigsby 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-53 16-20 75.

Halftime — Oregon 32-26. 3-point field goals — Colorado 8-21 (da Silva 3-3, Clifford 3-5, Wright 1-1, O’Brien 1-3, Gabbidon 0-1, Hammond 0-4, Simpson 0-4), Oregon 7-19 (Barthelemy 3-4, Guerrier 2-3, Wur 1-2, Bittle 1-4, Rigsby 0-1, Couisnard 0-2, Richardson 0-3). Rebounds — Colorado 34 (O’Brien 7), Oregon 38 (Bittle 13). Assists — Colorado 11 (Simpson 4), Oregon 13 (Richardson 6). Total fouls — Colorado 17, Oregon 13. A — 5,680.