Oregon (18-4, 7-2) held a two-game lead before heading to the Bay Area for a pair of games versus Stanford and California. The previously unbeaten Ducks dropped both, and with a series against Colorado and Utah on the line this week, things need to change in a hurry.
"We've just been talking about getting back to the way we'd been playing," said forward E.J. Singler. "That's just playing team ball, not turning it over. That's making good plays. It's really simple.
Oregon turned the ball over 20 or more times in each of their last three games, a facet of their game greatly affected by the loss of point guard Dominic Artis, who has missed each of those games with a foot injury.
"I'm not going to lie, it's going to be a little bit difficult. Artis gave us a lot of help at the point guard position," Singler said. "We've just got to get through it and we can."
Head coach Dana Altman said Tuesday that he is uncertain of Artis' status versus the Buffaloes and perhaps more concerning, was unable to confirm that reserve point guard Johnathan Loyd would be able to go either.
Loyd appeared to injure his thumb on the final possession of the first half Saturday, but returned for the second. His status for Thursday will be merited on his ability to play through pain, as Altman said nothing was structurally damaged.
Altman classified both as "game-time decisions."
Willie Moore is next in line behind Artis and Loyd, but behind him? That might have to be forward E.J. Singler.
"I talked to him about it and he kind of laughed and I kind of laughed," Altman said.
Oregon and Colorado played three hotly-contested games last season, with the Buffaloes winning two of the three. Oregon's lone win came at home, where they beat the Buffaloes by nine points. The two losses came by a point each, the second of which eliminated the Ducks from the Pac-12 tournament.
"I expect the same thing this year," Singler said. "It's just two really competitive teams—two teams that want to win."
With protecting the ball as the obvious key offensively, what will be most important for the Ducks defensively will be controlling the pace. Colorado plays an up-tempo style of game, burning teams in transition, which account for a high percentage of their scoring.
"I think that's the best thing about their team, is they really like to get down the court and score in transition," Singler said. "We've got to stop them and make them run their offense in the half-court."
Forwards Andre Roberson and Arsalan Kazemi are two of the league's top rebounders. Thursday's game will likely pit the two of them against each other. After last weekend's losses, the outcome of that matchup could prove pivotal.
"It wasn't really me out there playing. I was really disappointed with my effort. It's going to be much better this week when we play Colorado," Kazemi said.
The Buffaloes (14-7, 4-5) have struggled to win games away from the Coors Event Center, posting a 2-6 record on the road, with their only Pac-12 win coming against Washington State.
The Ducks and Buffaloes face off Thursday at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
NOTE:Altman was asked about Arik Armstead's status for the season and had this to say:
"There just hasn't been an opportunity to put him in. Arik's future is in football. He knows that. He could be a very good basketball player, if they'd let me have him for a while. He just needs to concentrate on that and give us as much time as he can."