After completing the regular season sweep of Washington on Wednesday, the Colorado men’s basketball team (15-5, 6-3 in Pac-12) heads across the state to Pullman to try and do the same against Washington State (14-6, 5-4) on Saturday.
The Buffs are coming off their first road win of conference play and are now riding a four-game winning streak. For head coach Tad Boyle, all five of his starters are now healthy. The Buffs were without Cody Williams and Tristan da Silva on New Year’s Eve but still got past the Cougars, 74-67.
The Cougars, on the other hand, are looking for revenge after KJ Simpson’s 34-point performance ruffled some feathers when these two teams last met. Washington State defeated a tough Utah squad at home on Wednesday and has only dropped one game at home all year, making it a tough matchup for a hot Colorado team.
Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Network.
Here are five keys to the Buffs completing a regular season sweep of the Cougars:
Win the inside battle
When facing the Cougars earlier this season, Oscar Cluff and Isaac Jones combined for 32 points and 15 rebounds while Eddie Lampkin Jr. dealt with foul trouble. Without da Silva and Williams, the Buffs’ options were limited and they looked toward redshirt freshman Joe Hurlburt for the first time all season. WSU scored 15 second-chance points and 38 points in the paint. After winning by seven without their star forwards, the Buffs should be in good shape come Saturday.
Abuse WSU's backcourt
WSU’s Myles Rice is not a bad player. In fact, he averages the second-most points for Washington State at 15.5. However, Rice and the rest of WSU’s guards were overwhelmed during their visit to Boulder. They shot a combined 4-for-19 from the field with five turnovers while Simpson enjoyed a career night on offense. With more options available this time around for CU’s star point guard, the Buffs could very well have another fun outing against the Cougars.
Apply rim pressure
Despite boasting the second-best 3-point percentage in the Pac-12 (39.5%), the Buffs like to get their points at the rim. Having scored 36 points in the paint and 22 points on 26 free throw attempts against WSU in their first contest, the Buffs need to continue getting to the rim, especially against a Cougars defense that offers little resistance in driving lanes. With WSU looking to limit the 3 this season, it should be easy for the Buffs to get going offensively.
Drive and kick to the perimeter
Because the dribble-drive was a viable option for Colorado against WSU in December, the Cougars will likely try and limit it. However, that means the Buffs must combat such a defense with kick-outs to the perimeter. If CU can tap into its 39.5% 3-point shooting while being able to move the ball, the Buffs will leave the Cougars without any defensive answers.
Limit the drive
While Washington State doesn’t like giving up the 3, it doesn’t like shooting it either as the Cougars average just over 18 attempts from deep a game. Five of their top six scorers are 6-foot-8 or taller and they only shoot 34.4% from 3-point range as a team. As the Cougars look to pound the ball inside and attack driving lanes, Colorado must be ready to collapse and rebound missed shots.