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Buffaloes squeak by Beavers, get must-win road game

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It wasn’t pretty, but the Buffs got the 60-52 victory in Corvallis.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A win is a win is a win. Colorado looked dreadful and deflated in their road game against the Oregon State Beavers (4-23), but they came away with the hard fought 60-52 victory.

Colorado’s first half offense was comprised of Derrick White, Xavier Johnson, Dominique Collier and almost nothing else. Those three combined to score 22 points on 7-11 shooting; the rest of the team combined for 2 points on 1-14 shooting. They were also the only players on the floor who looked like they knew the basic rules of the sport.

When the Buffs weren’t running in transition or finding White or Collier spotting up, they were handicapped by countless turnovers and debilitating lethargy. The Buffs have won 5 of their previous 6 games because they tapped into newfound energy, but that resource wasn’t available tonight, evidently.

Compared to the early offense, the Buffs’ defense looked like it could survive the raids of Gunchen Chanyu and the armies of Xiongnu, but it only looked good because the offense was that bad.

Oregon State isn’t exactly the best team around and the don’t quite have the most talented players in the conference, but they gave the Buffs some fits with size and shooting. Drew Eubanks (14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Jacquori McLaughlin (16 points, 2 assists, 2 steals) were excellent tonight for the Beavers and Colorado was mostly unable to slow them down tonight.

If the quality of offensive play in the first half looked like a D-2 game, the second half looked like a high school game (h/t Ted Chalfen). Neither team could pass the ball without a deflection, nor could they shoot without finding the rim. Parts of the game were entertaining, but in the same way as a grisly car accident is impossible to look away from.

Colorado finally found sustained success with about 9 minutes to play, thanks to White (20 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks) and Johnson (17 points)*. By the power of defense and points off turnovers, the Buffs went on a run to push their lead to double digits. That lead only lasted until CU’s offense (re)collapsed and Oregon State made 6 consecutive shots to tie the game at 50 with 3 minutes to play.

*I feel bad listing a player’s stats immediately after listing White’s. No one fills up the stat sheet like White, and no one should feel embarrassed if their main contribution is points.

There are few teams more experienced than Colorado at playing close, terrible basketball, and that experience showed tonight. When Oregon State sold out for what would have been their first Pac-12 win of the season, Colorado was calm and collected. They know how to brave a storm of ineptitude, and that they did. In the final minute of the game, Colorado played lockdown defense and got clutch shooting from Johnson to finish off the Beavers and roll to the 60-52 victory.

Next up for the Buffs is a road game against the No. 7 Oregon Ducks (23-4), which will air on Fox Sports 1 at 1 p.m. on Saturday, February 18. Oregon has only dropped two games in the Pac-12 — against UCLA and your Colorado Buffaloes — and still haven’t lost a game at Matthew Knight Arena this season. This next game could get ugly, but the Buffs could potentially pull off the upset of the year.