|The Ducks swarmed an under-performing bunch of Buffaloes. From: the Register Guard.|
I talked about Chris Boucher in my preview, and how his foul-limited 15 minutes of action in the Boulder leg artificially cut into Oregon's overall performance on the road. Given a full 35-minutes in this one, he controlled much of the action. Only seven points scored, but he also tallied 12 rebounds (helping UO trim CU's +14 rebounding margin in the first game down to only +4) and six blocks. Josh Scott and Wes Gordon each seemed to fear Boucher's lurking athleticism, even when he was away from the play. On a team of talented game changers, the JuCo transfer from tiny Northwest College in Wyoming may be the most unique. Oregon needed him as Dillon Brooks struggled, again, with foul trouble against CU, fouling out with only 10 points and a single rebound.
|Fortune and the Buffs struggled with the trapping zones and presses from Oregon. From: Seattlepi.com|
Colorado will now look to regroup in Corvallis. The goal of every road trip should be to at least get a split. Well, that's still on the table. It won't be easy, however. The Beavers still boast the league's single best all-around talent in Gary Payton II, defend their home court like madmen, and are coming off a big, Tournament-chances-boosting win over Utah. The Buffs are certainly capable of pulling off the upset, but will need to play very well in hostile territory to earn it. Can they right the ship, and return home with the much-needed split in Oregon? Dive into my preview to find out...
Hype Music for the Evening: "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire
Wednesday, Maurice White, a co-founder and lead singer of R&B super-group EWF, passed away. One of the most influential songwriters and performers of the 70s and 80s, he was a giant crossing multiple genres: R&B, Funk, Pop, Soul, and Jazz. In his honor, I present my favorite of the group's hits. Enjoy!
Tip-off from Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, OR is set for 6:30pm this evening. Televised coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call coming over on 850 KOA.
For reference, my preview from the first game can be found here.
Click below for the preview...
When last we met -
Sometimes, the beautiful game of basketball is just plain ugly. Such was the case the last time these two teams met, as the Colorado Buffaloes and Oregon State Beavers played discordant, arrhythmic hoops over the first 30 minutes of action. At the time, I compared it to the metallic jingle-jangle of a fork left in an on-turned garbage disposal -- jarring, uncomfortable, and, ultimately, destructive. There were turnovers, there were terrible shots, there were flat blown calls by the officials, and there were some truly questionable decisions by both coaching staffs. CU had been seeming to get the best of the game into the under-12 second half media timeout, yet had squandered a number of medium-sized advantages, and headed to the bench down 38-37. At this point, we all seemed doomed to a frustrating slog to the finish, with Colorado possibly spiking a precious home game.
|Wes Gordon, yo! From: the Ralphie Report|
The key? A very Tad Boyle-like double-scoop of defense and rebounding. Lead by Wes Gordon, the Buffs were stifling on 'D,' holding State to under 30% shooting for the game, and controlled the glass throughout (+15 rebounding). In what was his best game to-date in a CU uniform, Gordon put up 12/14, with seven of those boards coming on the offensive end, and a startling six blocks (where has that effort gone?). He ripped up OSU inside, leaving a team who lives on shots at the rim with essentially nothing to show for it. Oh, sure, Gary Payton II got his, going for an incredible 26/15/3/3, but the Buffs all but snuffed out the rest of the visiting Beavers, holding GPII's teammates to 24% shooting from the floor and only 28 points overall. In my preview I discussed how the son of the legend finally had some help this season, but Colorado all but erased that warning.
|Josh Scott was the offensive fuel in this one. From: the Post|
The Beavers since then -
Oregon State has been in a funk since that night, and the Buffs put them there. Starting with the previous game in Boulder, where everyone not named Gary Payton struggled, the Beavers had lost five of six prior to Thursday night. None of the losses were really 'surprises' coming on the road against the Ski Schools and the Arizonas, and then at home against UCLA, but it was, nonetheless, a disappointing stretch for OSU. What had been a quietly promising season, potentially one setting up for a call on Selection Sunday, suddenly spun out of control.
|Oh, Jarmal. Not a good look, dude. From: USA Today.|
While no one else has been getting in physical altercations with game officials, you look at box scores from games like their home defeat to UCLA (12-24 from the free throw line) and the 86-68 blowout loss against ASU in Tempe (where they played next to no defense), and you see a young team being forced to deal with the harsh realities of conference play. Their lone win over the stretch, surprisingly against a very strong USC squad, was simply a case of Payton playing out of his mind (22/15/8/4), and the Trojans going ice cold from the field on the road. Other than that, it has been a bad month of basketball for the Beavers, and they were more than happy to see the calendar flipped to February.
|After a rough February, Payton and the Beavs came up with a good response against Utah. From: BendBulletin.com|
But really, even with the new life afforded by a dramatic home victory over a conference heavyweight, the Beavers are long-shots to make the Dance. Five of their remaining eight games are on the road, and their statistical profile is solidly in the bottom-third of the conference. 9th in offensive efficiency and 8th in defensive across Pac-12 competition, they're not, holistically, a very daunting proposition. While they've been very good with the basketball, both holding onto it and forcing turnovers (boosted by some insane steal splits), they struggle in almost every other category. Probably the most concerning, if I were an Oregon State fan, would be their defensive lapses. If they don't rip-and-run, conference opponents are dominating them inside, converting on 54% of all attempts inside the arc. They're also dead last in both getting to the line (34% FTA:FGA ratio) and converting from it (63% from the stripe).
Why things could be different -
But, while the Beavers have been struggling, they do still boast one of the best all-around talents in the entire country, Gary Payton II, who can hurt you in every single aspect of the game. An elite defender, a surprisingly strong rebounder (standing only at 6-3), a soaring sharer of the ball, and a excellent bucket-getter, Payton is destined for the next level. He can single-handedly dictate the pace and timbre of the game. If he gets any help this evening, another standout performance from the senior could be the difference.
More to the point, I think he will get that needed support this time around. The 24% shooting his teammates put up in Boulder was an outlier. On home hardwood, there's no reason to suspect strong offensive freshmen like Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson, and Drew Eubanks won't have an improved say on the result. Those three combined for 18 points on 7-26 shooting in the first leg, a good 11 total points and 18 percentage points under their season averages. Even with the Buffs staying strong defensively, some basic regression to the mean is due here.
|Expect a better showing from Tinkle and the other OSU freshmen tonight. From: USA Today.|
Finally, CU continues to struggle offensively away from home in league play. With five road games under their belt, the Buffs are only averaging 37% from the floor (31% from three-point range) and 67 points scored per. The biggest difference is seen behind the arc, where the Buffs are 19 percentage points under their home numbers (50% from three at home, yo). Assuming those struggles hold, it'll be very difficult for Colorado to break away tonight.
My record on the year: 8-2. Against the spread: 4-5-1. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -0.5 pt/gm)
Lines as of Friday @ 5pm - CU +2, O/U 143
To win, the Buffs will have to do exactly what they accomplished in Boulder. Share the basketball, dominate the action in the paint, and take every 50-50 rebound. Unfortunately, I just don't see a repeat of their +15 performance on the boards, and I wouldn't expect a sudden Wes Gordon revival, either. There was a lot of weirdness in the margins that first time out against OSU, and regression can be a bitch.
Overall, I expect another ugly game, but, this time, without the late, game-clinching run from the Buffs. Payton will still get his, and should easily be the best player on the court, while, unlike the first game, actually get support from his freshmen compatriots. In the end, Oregon State gets a few lucky bounces late, and CU drops another one away from home.
OSU 64 - CU 61
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE BEAVERS!