CU men's hoops preview
TODAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (22-10) face the California Golden Bears (19-12) in a 3:30 p.m. MDT game at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
BROADCAST: Radio — KOA (850 AM), with Mark Johnson on play-by-play and Scott Wilke providing color commentary. TV —Pac-12 Network, with Kevin Calabro and Ernie Kent on the call.
STORYLINES: This is the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 Tournament. CU is the No. 5 seed and Cal is the No. 4 seed. ... Cal won the only meeting between the teams, 66-65 in overtime last Saturday. That game determined the seedings for this tournament. ... Cal's Justin Cobbs had 21 points in that game, while Richard Solomon and David Kravish both posted double-doubles (14 points and 12 rebounds each). CU's Xavier Johnson had 24 points. ... CU is 2-1 in conference tournament quarterfinal games under head coach Tad Boyle. ... Johnson has averaged 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in three career games against Cal. ... Both teams are 1-2 in neutral site games this season. ... In the history of the Pac-12/10 Tournament, No. 5 seeds are 4-12 against No. 4 seeds.
KEY STAT: Cal had 13 offensive rebounds - 10 in the second half - in Saturday's win against the Buffs. CU is the No. 2 rebounding team in the Pac-12 and needs to limit Cal's second chances.
COACHES: Tad Boyle is 91-48 in his fourth season at CU and 146-114 for his career. Mike Montgomery is 127-71 in his sixth season at Cal and 675-315 for his career.
Colorado (averages coming into Pac-12 Tournament) — G Xavier Talton, 6-2, So. (4.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.7 apg); G Askia Booker, 6-2, Jr. (13.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg); F Wesley Gordon, 6-9, Fr. (6.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.4 bpg); F Xavier Johnson, 6-7, So. (12.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg); F Josh Scott, 6-10, So. (14.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg). California — G Justin Cobbs, 6-4, Sr. (15.6 ppg, 5.8 apg); G Tyrone Wallace, 6-5, So. (11.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg); G Ricky Kreklow, 6-6, Jr. (6.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg); F Richard Solomon, 6-10, Sr. (11.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg); F David Kravish, 6-9, Jr. (11.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg).
SERIES: Cal leads the series 12-11.
UP NEXT: With a win, CU would play either Arizona or Utah in the semifinals on Friday. With a loss, the Buffs would wait for a postseason bid.
LAS VEGAS — — Five days after losing their regular season finale, the Colorado men's basketball team gets a chance at revenge.
On Thursday at 3:30 p.m. MDT, the fifth-seeded Buffaloes (22-10) will take on No. 4 California (19-12) in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The Buffs, who defeated USC 59-56 in Wednesday's first round, lost on Cal's home floor, 66-65 in overtime on Saturday.
"Tonight (vs. USC) we were mentally tough and we're going to have to carry that over to tomorrow to hopefully get the victory," junior Askia Booker said.
Cal comes into the game sitting squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Lose, and the Bears might not make it in; win, and they've got a good chance.
CU is likely in a safer position than the Bears are, but that doesn't make this game any less critical, Buffs head coach Tad Boyle said.
"We both want to win this game," Boyle said. "Throw all that other stuff out the window. Cal has a hell of a coach (in Mike Montgomery), a hall of fame coach in my opinion. They have a great senior in Justin Cobbs, and Richard Solomon is another one. They have others off the bench.
"They don't want their season to end and they don't want their Pac-12 first game to be their last game. And we want to keep playing."
To keep playing past Thursday, the Buffs realize they have to be a little better than they were in Berkeley on Saturday. Cal's 10 second-half offensive rebounds were key to its victory.
"What we have to do better than we did in Berkeley, we have to finish defensive possessions," Boyle said.
"Against Cal, it may come down to a loose ball here, a long rebound there; it might be a made 3 or a missed 3. I anticipate a hell of a game tomorrow."
The final stat sheet from Wednesday's game looks pretty good for Josh Scott. The CU sophomore finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, not too far off from his season averages of 14.5 points and 8.8 rebounds.
Getting to those stats wasn't easy, though.
Scott missed nine of his first 10 shots while battling all night against USC's 7-foot-2 senior Omar Oraby.
"Josh is the ultimate battler. He battles every day," Boyle said. "People have no idea how big and how strong Oraby is."
Oraby finished with just 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, but his play, especially early, was important to the Trojans hanging around all night.
"He's a senior and this was his last game," Scott said. "I could imagine if I was a senior, I'd be trying to play my butt off and that's what he did."
Scott kept playing hard, too, and wound up scoring six key points late in the game for CU.
CU finished with 13 turnovers, but none of them came in the final 11 minutes, 40 seconds of the game.
The turnovers, which led to 13 USC points, contributed to the Trojans taking a five-point lead with just under 11 minutes to play. Avoiding the turnovers, on the other hand, were key to CU rallying down the stretch.
"(Boyle) kind of got upset about us turning the ball over, because it was allowing them to get out in transition and get easy buckets," Booker said. "Defense is not the only thing. You have to take care of the ball, because you can't get the defense set if you turn it over and they're in transition and scoring easy buckets. We just wanted to eliminate those easy buckets and make them score over us in the half court set."
Early in the first half, freshman Tre'Shaun Fletcher checked into the game for the first time since tearing the MCL and meniscus in his left knee on Jan. 12.
Fletcher played just three minutes, but Boyle was glad to have him back.
"He looked good," Boyle said. "Tre'Shaun did a good job in the time he was in there. I would like to give him some more minutes, but this is a tough time of the year to come back, especially as a freshman."
Fletcher, who has worn a knee brace in practice and warm-ups over the past few weeks, played without a brace Wednesday and looked comfortable with his movement.
CU is now 8-2 in conference tournament games under Boyle. ... CU's 22 wins ties for the fourth-most in a season in school history. ... The Buffs are 5-0 against USC, including 3-0 this year, since joining the Pac-12 Conference.