The Buffs outlasted Oregon State on Wednesday afternoon 74-68 to kick off their postseason journey. This was the same team that invaded Boulder on senior night and stole their moment, not only to make school history by matching the program’s highest regular season win total, but to earn some momentum heading into the postseason but in Vegas it was a different story.
After struggling against Oregon State’s 2-3 zone in their last meeting Colorado seemed much more prepared and focused to be effective against it this time around. In the first half the Buffs knocked down a few more shots than they did in Boulder and it stretched out the zone just enough where they were able to find seams to attack the heart of the defense.
Perhaps one of the biggest factors in Colorado’s win on Wednesday was the fact that they saw the return of one of their best players, and the Pac 12’s defensive player of the year, Andre Roberson. His affect on the game wasn’t necessarily felt on the scoreboard as he finished with just 12 points but it was his presence on the boards that made the biggest difference.
“Andre bring a lot to our team, there’s no question about it,” said Colorado coach Tad Boyle after the game. “He was a little rusty today but in terms of his defense and clogging the lane and changing shots, Andre was terrific. We are certainly a better team with him than without him.”
Xavier Johnson and Spencer Dinwiddie led the surge offensively but perhaps it was Johnson’s improving mental game that saw him turn a frustrated driven six point performance in their regular season finale into a 16 point confidence boosting outing in the conference tournament opener.
“I did but that’s something I’m going to have to work on myself,” stated Johnson on his ability to remain unfazed when things don’t go his way. “My mental focus, coach has helped me a lot with that and I’m getting better.”
Added Boyle, “He was much better today, better.”
Now that Boyle and the Buffs exacted their revenge against the Beavers they move on to face a team that knows a little something about being on the wrong side of Colorado’s revenge streak. A little over a month ago Colorado earned their victory over then No. 9 Arizona and it was a redemption game for the debacle in Tucson. Privately and publicly the Colorado players felt like they won both contests this season, and surprisingly enough some Arizona players agreed with that sentiment.
“We know it goes in the record books as a loss but a lot of people around the country have the same feeling that we do,” Dinwiddie stated in the postgame interview. “Even some of their players do because we kind of talked about it on the floor the last time. So we do feel like we’re 2-0 but we don’t take that for granted because they are a great and talented team.”
Colorado has Arizona’s number and they match up well with the Wildcats. That’s what makes Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup between the two that more intriguing because whoever does win will have earned it.
David LaRose is a College Basketball writer for Rant Sports covering the Pac 12 and the University of Colorado. He’s also a member of the USBWA. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.