SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Buffs couldn't avoid thinking about the NCAA Tournament during their stay here.

Colorado practiced Thursday and Friday at the McCarthy Center on Gonzaga's pristine campus, where all of the Bulldogs' postseason banners hang. The players wore their normal black and gold jerseys and shorts, but they were also cloaked in the disappointment of a 1-4 start in the Pac-12.

Even though it's still January, Tad Boyle's team understands that it's on the road to bubble trouble this March unless CU can pick up a victory Saturday night in Pullman against Washington State at Beasley Coliseum (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

The Buffs (11-6 overall) are currently in 10th place in the conference standings ahead of only Oregon State (10-7, 0-4) and Utah (8-9, 0-5).

"We don't want to lose any more games, especially if we want a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament," said CU sophomore shooting guard Askia Booker. "I think we need to win the rest of our games from here on out."

Boyle just wants to go home with the first conference road win of the season.

"I'm not looking at the big picture stuff, I'm just looking at this next game," Boyle said. "But sometimes winning breeds winning, just like losing breeds losing. We're on the wrong side of that right now."

CU played better defensively on Wednesday night at Washington, but coming up with defensive rebounds during crunch time proved to be more slippery than the fish being tossed around at the Pike Place Market.


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The Buffs are now 1-5 in true road games following the 64-54 loss in Seattle.

"Our first-shot defense was terrific the other night. We made some strides," Boyle said. "But until we can string three, four, five games together, that's maybe where I'll say we've turned the corner (defensively). The jury is still out."

The Cougars (10-7, 1-3) are coming off a 75-65 victory over Utah. Brock Motum, the Pac-12's second-leading scorer (19.4 ppg), posted all 14 of his points in the second half against the Utes.

Andre Roberson, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds at Washington, will be the primary defender on Washington State's 6-9 senior standout. Last season Roberson helped hold Motum to nine points on 2-for-10 shooting during CU's 71-60 win in Boulder.

"Brock Motum is one of the better scorers in the league. He puts up big-time numbers and he makes it look easy," Boyle said. "They're playing with confidence, they're a good home team, and they're hungry just like we're hungry. We're all looking for that next win. You hate to be kind of scratching at the bottom right now."

The Cougars are 8-2 at the Beasley Center this season, losing close games to rivals Gonzaga (71-69) and Washington (68-63).

Washington State, like CU, was blown out by Kansas (78-41) and defeated Fresno State (59-50) during non-conference play.

"We can't let them score in transition. They're pretty athletic and they have pretty fast guards," Booker said. The backcourt tandem of Mike Ladd (10.6 ppg) and DeVonte Lacy (10.0 ppg) both average double figures in scoring for the Cougars. "Motum is a monster. He can score anywhere on the floor. We need to keep him away from the basket and make him shoot over our hand or with a hand in his face."

The Buffs will get on another airplane Saturday in Spokane for the short flight to Pullman, a place the program has never played before. The CU football team's only victory in 2012 was on Sept. 22 at Washington State (35-34).

Boyle and Co. haven't experienced a conference road triumph since a 55-48 win at Utah last season (Feb. 18, 2012).

"I'm not trying to be 1-5. I don't think anybody on the team wants to be 1-5," Roberson said of CU's poor Pac-12 record so far. "If we want to do what we have planned to do this season, it's a must win."

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanThorburn

 

CU men's hoops preview

 

SATURDAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (11-6, 1-4) make their first-ever visit to Pullman to play the Washington State Cougars (10-7, 1-3) at 8 p.m. at Beasley Coliseum.

BROADCAST: Television on the Pac-12 Network with Kevin Calabro (play-by-play) and Lamar Hurd (analyst). Radio on KOA (850 am) with Mark Johnson (play-by-play). Follow on Twitter: @RyanThorburn.

CU STORY LINES: The Buffs are 10th in the Pac-12 standings after Wednesday's 64-54 loss at Washington. ... CU shot just 36.2 percent from the field and had a season-low assists total (six) against the Huskies. ... Spencer Dinwiddie had 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting to lead CU. Askia Booker (nine points on 3-for-14 shooting) is looking to bounce back after taking some bad shots in Seattle. ... CU is 7-5 this season in games decided by 10 points or less. ... The Buffs are 1-5 in true road games this season.

WASHINGTON STATE STORY LINES: The Cougars got their first Pac-12 victory of the season on Wednesday at home against Utah (75-65). ... Brock Motum, the Pac-12's second-leading scorer (19.4 ppg), scored all 14 of his points in the second half against the Utes. He has scored at least 14 points in all 17 of Washington State's games. ... Mike Ladd, a 6-5 guard, led the way with 22 points against the Utes. ... The Cougars are 8-2 at home, 0-3 on the road and 2-2 in neutral-site games.

KEY STAT: The Buffs were 1-for-10 from behind the arc against Washington. Andre Roberson was 1-for-3 from distance, which allowed CU's streak of consecutive games with at least one made 3-pointer to extend to 348 (dates back to Jan. 19, 2002).

COACHES: Boyle is 59-31 in his third season at CU. Ken Bone is 67-53 in his fourth season at Washington State.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- F Andre Roberson, 6-7, So., 10.9 ppg, 11.8 rpg; F Josh Scott, 6-10, Fr., 13.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg; G Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-6, So., 14.5 ppg, 2.6 apg; G Askia Booker, 6-1, So., 14.6 ppg, 2.4 apg; G Sabatino Chen, 6-4, Sr., 4.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg. Washington State -- G Mike Ladd, 6-5, Sr., 10.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg; G DeVonte Lacy, 10.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg; G Royce Woolridge, 6-3, Sr., 7.6 ppg, 2.8 apg; F Brock Motum, 6-10, Sr., 19.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg; F D.J. Shelton, 6-10, Jr., 5.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg.

SERIES: CU leads 2-1, including a 71-60 victory last season. The Buffs are 2-0 against Washington State in Boulder and also defeated the Cougars 84-74 on Dec. 19, 1969, at a tournament in Albuquerque, N.M.

UP NEXT: The Buffs host Stanford on Thursday at the Coors Events Center (8 p.m., ESPNU).