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Men's basketball notes: February push requires defensive hot streak for CU Buffs

Feb. 22—There still is a fervent belief within the Colorado men's basketball team that a February push is well within the Buffaloes' reach.

Putting one together will almost certainly require a hot streak defensively.

Although the Buffs managed to escape last weekend's two-game trip through Los Angeles with a split, CU's unexpected struggles on defense continued. With a run of three consecutive home games that begins on Saturday against Utah (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network), CU hopes to discover some consistency at an end of the floor that has been largely inconsistent throughout the entire 2023-24 season.

"That's been a challenge with this group, for whatever reason," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "I think we've got smart guys. I know they hear it from me. And I know they see it in film. The Utah game was the same way. Our backs were against the wall and then we turn it around defensively. It was good. We've got to play with a sense of urgency from the get-go.

"If I had the answer, it would be fixed. Part of it might be I'm playing guys too many minutes. I've thought about that. We've got a capable team. And I've told them we don't have to get 100% better. We've just got to get 10 or 15 or 20% better and we'll be fine."

The .516 mark posted by USC in the first half on Saturday of what turned into a double-overtime win for CU marked the 19th half of play this season in which a Buffs foe has shot at least 50%. Heading into Thursday's slate around the league, CU ranked ninth in Pac-12 games in defensive 3-point percentage (.360) and sixth in overall defensive field goal percentage (.453).

"You can see it, you can feel it, you can sense it when you're out there on the court," CU senior Tristan da Silva said. "Every time we play good defense and we finally get into transition and get to run on our opponents, that's when we're at our best. When we control the pace of the game. And that's hard to do when you've got to get the ball out of the basket every time down. It's kind of frustrating when people score on you every single time, because you don't really feel like you're in control of the game. We've talked about it enough to be aware of it. Our defense dictates the outcome of the games."

IMPACT signee

On Thursday, CU held a special press conference to honor 12-year old Blake Moraska, who signed his own honorary letter of intent to join the Buffs' program. Moraska, from Boulder, was paired with the Team IMPACT program, a nonprofit organization that attempts to help improve the quality of life for children facing serious and chronic illnesses.

A seventh-grader at Southern Hills Middle School, Moraska is an avid sports fan and frequent CU game day attendee who was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis when he was a baby.

"Blake's been around for a little bit," Boyle said. "He's come to some pregame meals. He's been to some games. So today's a day we can commemorate everything with signing you to a letter of intent so congratulations and welcome to the Buff family."

Notable

Former CU Buffs center Lawson Lovering went 4-for-5 with nine points and eight rebounds for Utah in a Feb. 3 home win against his old team. In Lovering's four games since, he has averaged 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds. ... CU has won five of its past six home games against the Utes.