Buffs Aim To Bounce Back, Face Ducks To Open Road Trip
EUGENE, Ore. — One thing Tad Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes have done particularly well this season is bounce back from losses.
The 16-6 Buffs (10-5 Pac-12) have not suffered back-to-back defeats all year.
But that trend will receive its most difficult test of the season Thursday when CU, coming off a disappointing 71-62 loss at Cal, heads to Oregon for a 9 p.m. (MT) matchup with the surging Ducks (12-4, 7-3).
"It speaks to the leadership, the resiliency this group has, the competitiveness," Boyle said Wednesday, just before the team left for a weekend road trip to Oregon. "This team, this version of the Colorado Buffaloes, from my standpoint as their coach, they hurt and they're as mad and they're as disappointed after our losses as much as the coaching staff. I can tell you, not every team is like that. Sometimes players just brush off the loss like it's no big deal. It's like taking a shower, we'll get another one tomorrow. Our team's not like that and that's one reason we have bounced back after losses."
Of course, as Boyle added, bouncing back against the Ducks on their home floor will be a tall order. After battling injuries and Covid-19 pauses throughout the season, Oregon has all of its key players back in uniform and has won three in a row, including a road trip sweep of Arizona and Arizona State.
Throw in the fact that Colorado has lost five in a row on the Ducks' home floor, and the Buffs know they have their work cut out for them.
"We're going to get their best shot, I can promise you," Boyle said. "It's a big game for both teams."
Indeed, there's plenty at stake for each program.
The Buffs have dropped into fourth place in the conference standings and need a win to maintain their position. The Ducks, ranked No. 25 in the USA Today/Coaches poll this week, have climbed into third place and are also anxious to maintain that position.
"They have really good players and a lot of firepower offensively from a lot of different positions," Boyle said. "Our defense is going to be challenged as much as it has been all year. They can score so many different ways."
The Ducks are indeed blessed with offensive balance, with four players averaging double figures. Forward Eugene Omoruyi averages 17.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while guard Chris Duarte is averaging 17.2 points and 4.9 rebounds. Junior guard Will Richardson, meanwhile, has marked his recent return to the lineup after a hand injury by averaging 12.0 points per game.
They're leading the Pac-12 making just under nine threes a game and they can really drive the ball," Boyle said. "Omoruyi is as good of a low-post scorer as there is in our league, especially being 6-foot-6. They present a lot of problems. For us to be successful, we're going to have to guard them. Guard the 3-point line, guard them off the bounce, and we're going to have limit them to one shot because they're a good offensive rebounding team."
Two other areas at which the Buffs will need to be at their best will be eliminating turnovers and shooting the ball well.
In their first meeting this year, Colorado shot 55 percent from the floor in the second half — including 5-for-12 from 3-point range — in a 79-72 win. Both senior guard McKinley Wright IV and junior forward Evan Battey had double-doubles in that win, with Wright scoring 21 points and collecting 10 rebounds and Battey adding 12 points and 10 boards. For the season, the Buffs are shooting 40 percent from 3-point range in their 16 wins and just 30 percent in their six losses.
As for turnovers, the Buffs need only look to their last game on the Ducks' home floor for a reminder. A year ago, the Buffs led at Oregon by nine at the half and by five with just under five minutes to play in the game. But a nasty stretch of turnovers — CU had 18 in the game — helped fuel a 15-2 Oregon run down the stretch, leading to a 68-60 Oregon win.
"You'd better take care of the basketball against Oregon because they feed off your miscues on offense," Boyle said. "If you have live-ball turnovers at Oregon, they turn into layups or 3-point shots in transition real quick. Taking care of the ball is key and our guys understand that."
THE SERIES: While Colorado leads the all-time series, 13-9, Oregon has an 8-2 edge in Eugene, including wins in the last five games there. CU's last win on the Ducks' home floor came in February 2013.
NATIONAL LEADERS: Colorado still leads the nation in free throw shooting percentage (82.4%), having connected on 308 of 374 attempts this season. The Buffs have shot 80% or better in 14 games and at least 90% in four games.
Along with owning the Pac-12's top spot in free throw percentage, the Buffaloes top the conference in turnovers (10.9 topg) and they are second in in scoring defense (63.6 ppg), scoring margin (+11.3), 3-point percentage (.375), 3-pointers made (7.7 3mpg), rebounding defense (31.1 rpg) and turnover margin (+2.6).
NATIONAL RANKINGS: The Buffs checked in Wednesday at No. 20 in the NCAA's NET rankings, but they are now the second-highest ranked team in the Pac-12, trailing No. 15 USC. Colorado also dropped to No. 16 in the KenPom.com rankings, with USC jumping up to No. 12.
BROADCAST: The game will be televised by ESPN2 with Roxy Bernstein and Adrian Branch. KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM will carry the radio broadcast with Mark Johnson and Scott Wilke.
UP NEXT: The Buffs wrap up their weekend stay in Oregon with a 6 p.m. game Saturday at Oregon State (ESPNU). They then return home for a pair of games next week, starting with a Feb. 25 game against USC (7 p.m.), followed by a Feb. 27 matchup with UCLA (8 p.m.).