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Big opportunity on deck for CU Buffs men's basketball against No. 8 Arizona

Feb. 9—The Colorado men's basketball team is 13-0 at home for the first time in program history.

Head coach Tad Boyle certainly is proud of that mark. Amid a season full of personnel issues and inconsistent play away from home, the Buffaloes' dominance at home is a big reason why they have been able to stay afloat within the Pac-12 Conference and in the NCAA Tournament picture.

Yet Boyle and the Buffs are aware that record will do nothing to help them overcome the season's biggest challenge, and biggest opportunity, on Saturday night.

After making some program history with an 82-70 win against Arizona State on Thursday night, the Buffs will have a chance to vanquish much of the season's frustrations against No. 8 Arizona at the CU Events Center.

Win, and the Buffs will move just one game behind current front-runner Arizona in the Pac-12 standings while adding a much-needed Quad 1 victory to the postseason resume. Lose, and the Buffs face the prospect of going back on the road, where they are 1-6, with what likely will be their final regular season opportunity against a top 25 team behind them.

"Being 13-0 at home has no bearing on Saturday night," Boyle said. "I wish it did. Because then we'd just say, 'Hey Arizona, go down to Tucson, give us the win.' That ain't happening. So we got to go win a game on Saturday. It's not going to be easy. We know they blew our doors off in Tucson. So we've got some work cut out for us and one day of prep. But they have one day of prep as well.

"Now we've just got to go play and see what happens on Saturday. But a hell of an opportunity and we're looking forward to it."

Not only will Arizona have just one day of prep, but the Wildcats arrive in Boulder on the heels of a triple-overtime win at Utah in which four Wildcats starters logged at least 44 minutes — Pelle Larsson (48), Caleb Love (48), Oumar Ballo (45) and Keshad Johnson (44).

And despite Arizona's dominance of the Buffs in Tucson — CU has never won there since joining the Pac-12 — the Buffs own an impressive track record against the Wildcats at home. Since the programs became league rivals in the 2011-12 season, the Buffs have posted a 7-2 mark against UA at home, with wins in the past five at the Events Center. Arizona was ranked in four of those seven victories and was ranked No. 2 in its last visit two years ago when the Buffs posted a 79-63 victory paced by a team-leading 19 points from then-sophomore Tristan da Silva.

The Buffs were rolled by Arizona 97-50 in Tucson on Jan. 4, with the Wildcats dialed-in from the opening tip on the heels of a loss at Stanford while CU played without da Silva and Cody Williams. With Williams' return to the starting lineup in Thursday's win following his latest injury absence, the Buffs expect to at least give the Wildcats a much different battle.

"Our mentality has to be getting stops. Get stops," CU guard KJ Simpson said. "We can't let our offense dictate our defense. If we guard them, if we play the defense that we know we're capable of and get out and run in transition, we're a tough team to go up against. Our offense is going to be what it is. Our main approach is just defense and rebounding."

No. 8 Arizona Wildcats at CU Buffs men's basketball

TIPOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m., CU Events Center.

TV/RADIO: ESPN/KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Arizona 18-5, 9-3 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 16-7, 7-5.

COACHES: Arizona — Tommy Lloyd, 3rd season (79-16 at Arizona and overall). Colorado — Tad Boyle, 14th season (288-179, 344-245 overall)

KEY PLAYERS: Arizona — G Caleb Love, 6-4, Sr. (18.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.3 apg); G Pelle Larsson, 6-6, Sr. (13.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, .541 FG%, .421 3%); C Oumar Ballo, 7-0, R-Sr. (12.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg, .607 FG%); F Keshad Johnson, 6-7, Sr. (11.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, .529 FG%); G Kylan Boswell, 6-2, So. (9.7 ppg, 3.8 apg, .384 3%). Colorado — G KJ Simpson, 6-2, Jr. (19.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.4 apg, .497 FG%, .447 3%); F Tristan da Silva, 6-9, Sr. (15.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, .475 FG%, .372 3%); G Cody Williams, 6-8, Fr. (14.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, .569 FG%, .483 3%); F J'Vonne Hadley, 6-6, Sr. (11.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, .563 FG%); C Eddie Lampkin Jr., 6-11, Sr. (10.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .543 FG%); G Julian Hammond III, 6-2, Jr. (7.7 ppg, .403 3%); G/F Luke O'Brien, 6-8, Sr. (6.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg).

NOTES: Arizona has used the same starting five in all 23 games. CU's most frequent starting five — Simpson, da Silva, Williams, Hadley and Lampkin — have made 12 starts together in 23 games. ... Since the start of the 2021-22 season, CU is just 1-4 against ranked teams at home. The lone win was against a No. 2-ranked Wildcats team on Feb. 26, 2022. ... Larsson led four UA players in double-figure points in the Wildcats' 47-point home win against CU last month, going 8-for-12 with a game-high 18 points. ... That loss marked CU's season-lows for scoring (50) and free throw attempts (10). The Buffs shot .364, the second-lowest field goal percentage of the season, and finished with 18 turnovers, their most in regulation this season (CU had 20 turnovers against Florida State on Nov. 21, but four occurred in overtime). ... Simpson needs one assist to become the 15th CU player to record 300 in his career. ... The Buffs take their final Pac-12 Conference trip through Los Angeles next week, beginning at UCLA on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN).