Written by  in Sports on Dec 3, 2010 5:00 / comments

After a starting off with a three-game winning streak at the Coors Events Center, the Buffs are looking to continue their streak against a future west coast conference foe.

In a matchup pitting two future members of the Pac-12 Conference against each other, the Oregon State Beavers will visit the Colorado Buffaloes at the Coors Events Center on Saturday night as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Series.

As of 9:00 p.m. on Thursday night, the Big 12 leads the series 3-0.

Although they beat the Texas Pan-Am Broncs 83-64, senior forward Marcus Relphorde said the Buffs have much to improve on before Saturday’s game.

“Our weakness is defense,” Relphorde said. “We haven’t guarded the ball well, and we need to work on locking down the whole 40 minutes.”

The Buffs’ defense started out strong on Tuesday night, preventing the Broncs from scoring for a 13-minute stretch. In the second half, though, they allowed 45 points and 11 offensive rebounds.

“We lost focus defensively and didn’t box out,” said Head Coach Tad Boyle. “But from each game, you take things you need to improve on.”

Colorado lost to Oregon State last year 69-74, but Boyle thinks his team is better prepared to take on the Beavers this season. Boyle said returning players will know how to handle Oregon State’s Princeton-style offense, since the Buffs ran that system last year.

Besides being familiar with the system, the Buffs have another advantage this season–their offense can score.

Sophomore guard Alec Burks and senior guard Cory Higgins average 20.7 and 18.5 points per game, respectively. Senior forward Marcus Relphorde averages 10.8, while senior guard Levi Knutson is close behind with 9.7.

“We have two or three guys on any given night that can have 20 points,” said junior forward Austin Dufault. “Our offense cannot be clicking at all and by accident score 80 points.”

In addition, the Buffs men have a strong core of senior leadership this season in Marcus Relphorde, Cory Higgins, Carlon Brown and Levi Knutson, who led the team in scoring on Tuesday with 18 points.

“You’re only as good as your seniors allow you to be, and nobody should have as much of a sense of urgency as those guys,” Boyle said. “They showed leadership and maturity against Texas Pan-Am, and after the game, they knew what our problems were.”

The players also appreciate the new leadership of Coach Boyle, and they have noticed some key differences in the team energy since he replaced former coach Jeff Bzdelik.

“The coaching staff is a lot more positive and encouraging,” Dufault said. “They coach us through mistakes and don’t get down on us.”

Though that encouragement doesn’t mean an easygoing attitude during games.

“It’s a whole different type of energy [this season],” Relphorde said. “Coach Boyle is much more intense, and the play is more ‘in-your-face.’”

While that intensity has been visible at home, it is lacking when the team travels to away games. The Buffs lost all but one of their regular season away games last year (against Nebraska), and have lost all three of their away games this season. Most recently, they fell to Harvard 66-82 on Nov. 28.

“[We need to understand] that every game we play is important,” Boyle said. “That’s been a little bit of a disappointment up to this point in the season. We haven’t approached road games mentally and emotionally with the same focus as home games.”

The Buffs will be able to rely on the home court advantage and the support of their fans when they play Oregon State on Saturday. For the next away game against New Mexico on Dec. 22, though, they will have to channel that home-game energy to pull out a win.

To be successful this season, “They will all have to be on the same page, have each other’s back, share the ball on offense and help each other on D,” Boyle said.


Photo credit: CU Independent/Phil McMichael

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Caryn Maconi at Caryn.maconi@colorado.edu.