Men’s basketball: CU Buffs to rest, regroup ahead of date at Utah

At the midpoint of the Pac-12 Conference schedule, the Colorado men’s basketball team isn’t quite where it wants to be.

Yet the Buffaloes remain well-positioned in the league race. And their fate remains squarely in their own hands.

Following a split of the final Pac-12 trip through Washington, culminating with a 78-69 defeat at Washington State, CU begins the second half of league play on Saturday at Utah (3 p.m., Pac-12 Network). It will mark the second time in the first 11 Pac-12 games that the Buffs have played three consecutive road games.

“It’s hard to win on the road. I don’t care what league you’re in,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “But I tell you what, I love our team’s competitiveness. I love our fight, our grit. This team has got what it takes to win games down the stretch. We’ve just got to go out there and do it. We’ve got to quit talking about it and do it.”

At 6-4, the Buffs (15-6 overall) are a half-game behind league-leaders Arizona and Oregon (both 6-3) and are tied with Washington State, with whom the Buffs split the regular season series. Just a half-game behind the Buffs and WSU are Stanford and Arizona State at 5-4, and both of those teams still have to play in Boulder, where CU is 12-0. CU is just 10-18 all-time at Utah, but veterans like Tristan da Silva and KJ Simpson were part of the teams that posted back-to-back wins in Salt Lake City prior to last season.

“We just got to get after it. Get better and get after it,” Simpson said. “Obviously it was a tough loss (at WSU). But we can’t sit and dwell on it. We have a week before our next opponent. They’re going to get ready for us and we’re on the road again. We’ll just have to watch film, get better, get after it in practice and have a short-term memory.”

Among the Buffs’ final 10 regular season games, it will be an even split with five on the road (Utah, UCLA, USC, Oregon State, Oregon) and five at home (Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, California, Stanford). The Buffs traveled home following Saturday’s defeat at WSU and planned to take Sunday and Monday off, taking advantage of the one-game week for extra recuperation ahead of the date against the Utes and former teammate Lawson Lovering.

“I want them to get mentally re-charged. I want them to get physically re-charged,” Boyle said. “I want our team to improve. I want our team to improve in the days we do practice. We’ll take some time off for sure. But we need to get better as a team, and our guys need to get better individually. And they need to get better collectively.

“The practice time is going to be key. No matter what happens, we’ve got to be ready to go on Saturday at Utah. Which is not going to be easy. It’s our third road game in a row for the second time. But they’re going to have a week, too. To me, whoever has a better week of practice probably has a better chance to win. That’s what I’m going to tell the guys.”

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