BOULDER – If the Colorado men’s basketball team can’t quite shake its surreal Sunday in Seattle, there’s a reason: The loss column seems to keep growing.
CU coach Tad Boyle on Tuesday disclosed that freshman wing Tre’Shaun Fletcher is scheduled to undergo surgery on his left knee and will be out from six to eight weeks. An eight-week absence would stretch into the Pac-12 Conference tournament, set for March 12-15 in Las Vegas.
The news on Fletcher arrived in the aftermath of Monday’s mega-hit – that starting junior point guard and all-around floor leader Spencer Dinwiddie will have ACL surgery on his left knee at a later date and is lost for the season.
Dinwiddie and Fletcher suffered their injuries late in the first half of Sunday afternoon’s 71-54 Pac-12 Conference loss to Washington – CU’s first defeat in league play this season. Dinwiddie went down with 2:51 left in the first half, Fletcher about minute later.
But while Dinwiddie was finished for the game and ultimately the season, Fletcher returned in the second half and finished the game with four points and one rebound in 10 minutes.
Even if they wanted to (which they don’t), the No. 21 Buffaloes have no time to mourn the loss of either player or the game: No. 25 UCLA visits the Coors Events Center on Thursday (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
Fletcher, of Tacoma, Wash., was averaging 3.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.3 assists. He had played in 16 of the Buffs’ 17 games, with his 10.2-minute average third among CU’s four true freshmen. Jaron Hopkins (17.1 minutes) and Dustin Thomas (12.5) have seen more court time than Fletcher, who is ahead of George King (5.1).
But King, of San Antonio, likely will see his minutes go up as Boyle now begins drawing on a shorter bench. King said an expanded role – if it develops – suits him fine: “Coach has always said be ready when your number is called. You practice every day like you are starting. I’m not, but when my number’s called I’ll be ready.”
He called losing Dinwiddie and Fletcher to knee injuries on the same afternoon “crazy . . . when Spencer went down I saw the look on his face and I knew it wasn’t good. I prayed right there on the bench. When ‘Fletch’ went down, I prayed again. I was hoping the injury bug wouldn’t get us, but it did get us a little bit. Two great guys . . . we just have to be ready when our numbers’ are called.”
Sophomore post Josh Scott, who is third in the Pac-12 this season in double-doubles (eight), called the 6-7 Fletcher “part of some big wins for us. It’s a loss for our bench; he’s a big guard who could guard other big guards and was one of our better perimeter defenders.”
In the absence of Dinwiddie and now Fletcher, Boyle has emphasized to his players that only a collaborative effort – the whole team stepping up – will keep the Buffs competitive. Said Scott: “It’s THE message. There’s no excuse . . . to me, we’re out here to compete and play our hardest and give our all.”
Scott said the Buffs (14-3, 3-1) “are still a good team. There’s no question in our minds and there shouldn’t be in anyone else’s. Spencer was a big part of it, but coach Boyle has recruited good players.”
Tuesday marked the first practice without Dinwiddie and Fletcher, and Boyle conceded “there’s going to be a period of adjustment, no question about that. But we’ll handle it and move forward.”
And that includes Boyle and his staff. Asked if Sunday’s injuries increases his job’s degree of difficulty, Boyle answered, “Absolutely . . . it makes my job harder, no question about that. (But) it’s part of athletics, I don’t care what sport you play . . . everybody goes through it. We are right now; we’re down two guys, two athletic, long good basketball players. So yeah, we’re all challenged. Our players are challenged, our coaches are challenged. And guess what, our fans are going to be challenged, too.
“Thursday night is going to be a great environment in here; we’re going to need their energy and these guys on the floor are going to need to know that they believe in them – which I know they do. There’s been a lot of well-wishes for our program and for Spencer, but that all goes away when that thing’s tipped up on Thursday night. It’s game on and we’ve got to be ready to fight and scratch and claw and do whatever we’ve got to do to get a win.”
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