That's what makes this effort against lowly Oregon State so befuddling. There's no reason Colorado should've let the hosts hang on, even going so far as to let them pull even with under two minutes to play. But the finishing touches shown by the Buffs in sealing the win were, none-the-less, impressive. CU was hungry for victory in this one; you could see it even as OSU was sticking close. The defense was tenacious, and the late-game offense was exquisite. This was the killer mentality that the team was missing earlier in the year, the desperate energy that so often separates the winners from the losers with post-season positioning on the line. It's a mentality that has been with the team since the Oregon game a few weeks ago, and one that could serve them well as the calendar starts to look a whole lot like March.
|Beavs made it ugly, but the Buffs prevailed. From: the Press-Democrat|
Overall, this was a rough night for Colorado, at least offensively. The Beavers almost completely disrupted the offensive rhythm that the Buffs had shown against Washington State last weekend, eliminating backcuts and interior penetration, while holding Colorado to just 42% shooting from the field. The big issue here was in the paint, where OSU clogged things up enough to limit the Buffs to just 28 points under the rim after they had claimed 44 against the Cougars. For as difficult as CU found it to score, however, they made up for it on the defensive end. While State was able to play them to near-parity on the glass (33-31), Colorado held the hosts to 38% shooting from the floor, 30% from deep, and squelched them in the paint to the tune of just 18 total points. CU was showing extremely hard on screens and giving OSU's point guards fits. The team as a whole managed just seven assists all night and committed 18 turnovers. Whereas the Beavers had shook off the CU defense in Boulder, the Buffs were able to hold them to just 0.83 ppp in Corvallis -- a night and day turnaround.
|Colorado found a way. From: FOX Sports|
Alas, we've yet to find that 'reset button' on the great game of life, so BuffNation must soldier on. The Oregon Ducks are up next, and they're looking for a bit of revenge. Time to see just how far this CU team has come in their advance back up the ranks in the Pac-12.
Hype Music for the Evening: "I Love LA" by Randy Newman
Doesn't make much sense, right? CU is playing Oregon today, why am I picking a song about Los Angeles? Well, that's because I'm actually in LA right now, in town for a family vacation. So, you get stuck with this diddy by the great Randy Newman. Enjoy!
Tip-off from Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene is set for 1pm MT on Saturday. Televised coverage can be found on FOX national, with the radio call on 850 KOA.
For reference, my preview from the first game against UO this season can be found here.
Click below for the preview...
When last we met -
This is the win that started it, the pride-saving climb back from irrelevance to something approaching the pre-season promise. The team that I talked up in my season preview was suddenly back and on full display in late-January against then-#10 Oregon. Outside of the small worry of 16-26 shooting from the free throw line, the Buffaloes dominated the proceedings, dictating the pace, and playing confident, composed basketball throughout. This was no fluke, CU earned this one; 74-65.
Coach Boyle had been talking about it for months. I had been pleading for it since the start of conference play. Defense, defense, defense -- the crux of the #TadBall credo. What was once as essential to the program as Muscle Milk and Nike had become abandoned and discarded throughout the infamous 0-7 start to conference play.. 1.15 ppp allowed against woeful Oregon State, 1.2 against WSU, 1.37 to UCLA, to name a few. Pac-12 opponents, from the good to the bad, were naming their score against the Buffs, leveraging easy baskets to keep the team on their heels. Not on this Saturday night, however. From the opening tip, CU was not messing around on the defensive end. They came to play, to disrupt, to annoy. Hands were shot into passing lanes, closeouts were frenetic. I saw guys who hadn't been locked in for weeks shoot out of the tunnel like demons focused on a lost soul. The Ducks were held under one ppp for the game, forced into a 24% turnover rate, and limited to under 30% shooting in the second half. This... THIS is what I'm talking about when I think of Colorado Basketball. The definition of #TadBall.
|Just like football. From: KVAL|
That being said, oh my was DWhite fantastic. He kicked off the second half run with back-to-back three pointers midway through the final frame, extended it with a dramatic and-one, and really killed off the game late. His second half line deserves to be framed: 17 points on 5-7 shooting, 4-5 from the line; a pair each of boards and assists, a block, a steal, and zero damn turnovers. Essentially perfect. He controlled the pace, leveraged his abilities flawlessly, and lead the team to victory. Just brilliant stuff.
|Joy has returned to Boulder. From: The SL Trib.|
The Ducks since then -
Oregon has gone 4-1 since their trip to Boulder. The biggest of those four wins, and, really, the biggest single win in the entire Pac-12 calendar, was their February 4th blowout home victory over Arizona. The Ducks decimated the Wildcats that day, seizing control of the action early in the first half, and never letting up off the gas until the game was well in hand. Before you could blink, they were up 19-6. The Wildcats would try to stall things a bit, but, with eight minutes to play before half, the UO started pouring in points. Extending back a bit, they would go on a 19-0 run to make the score 38-11 just ahead of the U4 TO. If Arizona did anything positive in Eugene that afternoon, it was to keep the final deficit from ballooing to a 40-pointer after that opening. As it was, the Ducks won 85-58 to sling-shot into a tie for first place in the Conference of Champions.
No matter which of these teams ends up winning the regular season crown, both will carry the memory of this result with them to the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. Oregon, against a usually stout UofA defense, shot 65% from the field and 64% from deep. The rim must've looked like a hula-hoop to those guys! That's an embarrassment of a result for the 'Cats, one which damages their reputation as a potential Final Four contender. If the Ducks can do this to them, what happens when they are put up against other ultra-capable teams from across the country? But, I digress...
|The Ducks cracked Zona in the head. From: SI|
Just as they had done against Arizona, Oregon raced out to a big first half lead in Los Angeles. Eventually, they were up 37-18 with about six minutes to play in the opening frame, before settling for a nine-point lead at the break. The Ducks even continued to push in the second half, breaking the lead out to 15 with about 16 minutes to go. With a home crowd at their backs, though, the Bruins started to chip away. They would take the lead with just under five minutes to play, and UCLA never looked back after that.
|Oregon took a painful one on the chin in LA. From: the Columbian|
Why things could be different -
"If Oregon is so good," you may be asking, "then how did the Buffs manage to beat them last month?" Well, the answer here is informative, and could lead to a fresh perspective on this afternoon's affair. Remember that three of the Ducks fouled out that evening last month, and another, Dillon Brooks, finished with four fouls. Foul trouble dogged them all game long, largely thanks to the activity of Derrick White on the drive and Xavier Johnson in the paint. While I would expect both DW and XJ to stay aggressive, the flip in home whistle could erase this factor from the rematch.
Now, foul trouble for Oregon wasn't the reason Colorado won last time, but it was a large part of it, especially as the game really tipped for good in the second half. The real trick is that Oregon is usually so good at staying away from such issues, and keeping opponents off the line. As I said, they're top in the league in FTA/FGA ratio, meaning they simply do not typically send teams to the line as often as others. The Buffs don't usually rely on such things, really shaping up as average in terms of earning trips to the line, but it's more that just free throws. Players with foul trouble naturally give wider berths on drives, leave open lanes for passing, and shy away on open rebound opportunities. It opens up the floor for better offensive opportunities. It's not a direct correlation, but it is important.
|A healthy Brooks on a roll could be the difference maker. From: the SL Trib|
Finally, I think Dillon Brooks is finally healthy. In the Boulder leg, Brooks was held to nine points, and looked a little off his game. Since then, he's been averaging 21 points per, and has shown off some of his usual explosion. A healthy Brooks adds such a unique dimension to Oregon. A point forward, he's a walking defensive miss-match, and can put whomever guards him in interesting positions. Active team defense will help, but if Brooks is getting into the lane, and drawing contact, there's going to be little the Buffs can do to slow him down.
My record this year: 9-5. Against the spread: 6-8. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -4.29 pt/gm)
Lines as of Friday @ 8pm - CU +11, O/U 141
The flip in home court here will be damning. Colorado won't get the whistles they did in Boulder, Oregon will revel in the home rims by canning threes, and Brooks will run wild. It's not an indictment of the Buffs - UO is a good team, after all - but look for the Ducks to roll. I'll give the points, and take the home team.
UO 81 - CU 69
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE DUCKS!