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Hiatus over: CU Buffs ready to resume Pac-12 schedule at Oregon

Buffs expect to be at full strength after COVID setbacks

University of Colorado Boulder’s Jabari Walker goes to the basket on Milwaukee’s Patrick Baldwin Jr. during the December 10, 2021 game in Boulder.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)
University of Colorado Boulder’s Jabari Walker goes to the basket on Milwaukee’s Patrick Baldwin Jr. during the December 10, 2021 game in Boulder.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)
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Often when the fall semester ends, a new round of lessons begins for the Colorado men’s basketball team.

During those few weeks when the Buffaloes usually don’t have to worry about anything beyond basketball, head coach Tad Boyle typically takes advantage of the time to add a few wrinkles to his team’s arsenal. Tweaks like maybe a new inbounds play, or an adjustment to one of the Buffs’ defensive sets.

Given the resumption of Pac-12 Conference play finally, and maybe hopefully, is at hand, those midseason adjustments certainly are in the works for CU. However, any upcoming tweaks will take a back seat to simply finding a collective rhythm once again.

Barring any late setbacks, the Buffs’ COVID-sparked competitive pause will come to an end Monday night with a makeup date at Oregon. Assuming tipoff occurs as planned at Knight Arena, it will be CU’s first game in 16 days and just the second game in 23 days dating back to a Dec. 10 win against Milwaukee.

“Usually you use this time of year to put some new things in,” Boyle said. “A couple new out of bounds plays, a couple new sets. It’s been really difficult for us to do that because we haven’t had a full team. The challenge is to get everyone on the same page with the new things we’re putting in. Not that we’re overhauling our whole offense or the whole defense. We’re not doing that. Then you have the normal rust from the Christmas break. We have that in addition to (the COVID layoff).

“But it’s not an excuse. We’re going to go hook it up and expect to play well. I just want our players to play free and loose mentally, and not over-think the game.”

Oregon has sported a familiar look with a roster of transfers and other newcomers surrounding a key set of holdovers. The results, however, have been mostly unfamiliar so far for the Ducks.

Oregon put together some very un-Ducks-like performances in November and December, scoring just 49 points in a Nov. 16 home loss against Brigham Young and dropping their Pac-12 opener at home against an Arizona State squad that scored all of 29 points in its previous game just four days earlier.

However, Oregon more recently has shown signs of possibly turning a corner. The Ducks held a halftime lead against top-ranked Baylor on Dec. 18 before the Bears pulled away in the second half, and in their first game since Dec. 21 the Ducks topped Utah at home on Saturday night.

“I expect to see a much-improved team,” Boyle said. “They’re going to have a game under their belt (against Utah). They’re a team that plays extremely hard. They’re very athletic. They’re aggressive offensively, they’re aggressive defensively. You have to make some plays against Oregon. They press, they run a matchup zone, they change defenses — they really try to keep you off balance.”

The Buffs are expecting to have their full roster available after going through short-squad workouts for much of the past week while players cleared COVID quarantine protocols. CU will have a challenging jump back into competition, with the Oregon date beginning a run of three games in seven days.

“We’ve been preparing at practice, so we should be prepared for the game,” CU senior guard Elijah Parquet said. “But it is our first game in a bit, so we’ll see how we are in the game, but we’ll be ready. We’re going to have to guard the ball for sure in this game because they’ve got a lot of guys that can shoot it, and drive it, and have a pull-up game. Three-level scorers. They’re going to test us for sure.”

CU Buffs men’s basketball at Oregon Ducks

TIPOFF: Monday, 8 p.m. MT, Knight Arena.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Networks; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Colorado 9-3, 1-1 Pac-12 Conference; Oregon 8-6, 1-2.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 12th season (242-146, 298-212 overall). Oregon — Dana Altman, 12th season (288-116, 698-359 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — F Jabari Walker, So., 13.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg; F Evan Battey, R-Sr., 12.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg; G Keeshawn Barthelemy, R-So., 11.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.7 apg; G Elijah Parquet, Sr., 7.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, .500 field goal percentage. Oregon — G Will Richardson, Sr., 13.6 ppg, 3.6 apg, .453 3-point percentage; G De’Vion Harmon, Jr., 10.1 ppg; G Jacob Young, R-Sr., 10.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg; F Quincy Guerrier, Jr., 8.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg.

NOTES: CU has lost its past five games at Oregon…Rust might be evident throughout a CU squad that has played just once since Dec. 10, but no rotation player will be as rusty as Walker. CU’s leading scorer and rebounder played just four-plus minutes during the team’s lone game since then, a win against Cal State Bakersfield on Dec. 18, after absorbing a shot to his head…Battey needs seven rebounds to match current CU radio analyst Scott Wilke for 26th-place on the program’s all-time rebounding list…CU has shot just .222 (14-for-63) on 3-pointers in their four previous games away from home…The Buffs return home to host Washington State on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPNU/2) and Washington on Sunday (3 p.m., ESPNU/2).

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