Home-work not yet finished as CU Buffs men's basketball resets for Oregon State

Jan. 19—The win didn't cure all that ails the inconsistent defense of the Colorado men's basketball team. Yet it certainly was a step in the right direction, and fine-tuning the missteps always is more palatable after a victory.

For the Buffaloes, that victory was an 86-70 decision against Oregon on Thursday that handed the Ducks their first Pac-12 Conference defeat while renewing hope the Buffs, playing a second consecutive game with their top seven rotation players for the first time since early December, can establish footing in the conference race in tune with CU's preseason expectations.

That win also put the Buffs at the cusp of history. The victory against Oregon improved CU to 11-0 at home for just the fourth time in program history, and the third in 14 seasons under head coach Tad Boyle. Only one of those previous three 11-0 squads at home, the 1968-69 Big Eight champions, has ever started 12-0 at home, but it's a feat the Buffs can match while taking aim at a home sweep on Saturday against Oregon State.

After going 0-3 during the first conference road trip, the Buffs have returned home and regained momentum while getting fully healthy. Yet a misstep against the struggling Beavers would ruin that momentum ahead of the final two-game Pac-12 Conference trip through Washington next week.

The 11-game home win streak is the program's longest since winning 12 in a row from the final eight home games of the 2018-19 season through the first four of the 2019-20 season.

"That road trip kind of was a lot for us. A lot mentally," CU guard KJ Simpson said. "We just had to stress we can't be that team. The thing with this conference, you look all around, teams are getting beat. Anybody is capable of beating anyone on any given night. So we can't pay attention to where we are in the standings.

"These practices that we were having (this week) we were really mentally locked-in on defense and just ready to go out there and get a win on our home court."

CU didn't exactly shake its season-long habit of pairing a strong defensive half with a sub-par one, as Oregon shot .545 with four 3-pointers during the first half on Thursday before cooling off to a .412 mark after the break (also with four 3-pointers, but on eight more attempts).

Still, for a team that has struggled to play consistent high-level defense, the key to success the rest of the way might be less about the raw numbers than making things difficult for the opposition. Oregon, for example, entered Thursday's game with a .417 mark on 3-pointers in Pac-12 play. The Ducks finished at .364 from the arc against the Buffs and committed 13 turnovers after averaging a league-low 9.6 per game during their 5-0 start in conference play.

"We really talked about if (Oregon) drives it and take a tough two, we'll live with it. And take away threes from shooters," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "But I was pleased with the defensive effort pretty much the whole game, except for a few lapses. And it's those lapses we've got to get rid of, where they earn everything they get. We don't give them anything. We've got to get rid of those (lapses). But other than that, I thought we were pretty darn good.

"We forced eight turnovers (in the first half). We want to be more aggressive. I looked at the numbers at halftime and wasn't too happy with the percentage, but we got a pretty good lead and we forced eight turnovers. Sometimes you've got to take the good with the bad."

Oregon State Beavers at CU Buffs men's basketball

TIPOFF: Saturday, 5 p.m., CU Events Center.

TV/RADIO: Pac-12 Network/KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Oregon State 9-8, 1-5 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 13-5,4-3.

COACHES: Oregon State — Wayne Tinkle, 10th season (136-166, 294-255 overall). Colorado — Tad Boyle, 14th season (285-177, 341-243 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Oregon State — G Jordan Pope, 6-2, So. (17.4 ppg, 3.6 apg, .382 3%); F Tyler Bilodeau, 6-9, So. (12.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg); G Dexter Akanno, 6-5, Sr. (12.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg); C KC Ibekwe, 6-10, So. (6.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, .600 FG%); F Michael Rataj, 6-9, So. (5.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg). Colorado — G KJ Simpson, 6-2, Jr. (19.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.3 apg, .511 FG%, .471 3%); F Tristan da Silva, 6-9, Sr. (15.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.9 apg, .503 FG%); G Cody Williams, 6-8, Fr. (15.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, .588 FG%); F J'Vonne Hadley, 6-6, Sr. (10.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, .565 FG%); C Eddie Lampkin Jr., 6-11, Sr. (9.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .533 FG%); G Julian Hammond III, 6-2, Jr. (8.2 ppg, .438 3%); G/F Luke O'Brien, 6-8, Sr. (6.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg).

NOTES: Oregon State is coming off a 74-47 loss on Thursday at Utah, falling to 0-6 away from home this season (0-3 in true road games, 0-3 on neutral floors). Dating back to last season, the Beavers have lost their past seven true road games and have lost their past 11 away from home overall. ... CU leads the all-time series against Oregon State 21-11, with a 12-3 mark in Boulder. The Buffs have won their past three home games against OSU. ... Simpson has recorded 11 20-point games this season. ... Hadley has recorded only three turnovers in the past seven games. After going without a 3-pointer in his first 33 games at CU, Hadley has gone 7-for-12 from the arc in the past seven games. ... The Beavers' .291 shooting percentage during their Thursday loss at Utah was a season-low by a substantial margin. OSU's previous shooting low was a .327 mark in a loss against Pittsburgh on Nov. 24. ... The Buffs will play their next three games on the road, beginning Wednesday at Washington (9 p.m. MT, ESPNU).