Xavier Johnson’s delayed senior year wasn’t supposed to turn out like it has, but he believes Colorado basketball has what it takes to get itself back on track throughout the remainder of the season. With their first conference win of the season on Thursday night against Oregon State, 85-78, the Buffaloes did just that.

“A win is a win; we’ll take it. We’ll move on,” head coach Tad Boyle said. “We needed this and our players needed this. Obviously it’s a relief more than a celebration, right now.”

After foregoing his true senior year due to an Achilles injury last season, Johnson returned to the Colorado lineup this year with a positive outlook, but still had some learning to go.

“Mindset hasn’t changed, but learning other people’s games has changed. You get more used to your teammates the more you play with them. Even though I was out a whole year, I was still kind of a newcomer coming back,” Johnson said. “I think I became a little more aggressive.”

With the win, the Buffs improve to 11-10 overall and 1-7 in Pac-12 play as the Beavers drop to 4-17, 0-8.

The issue, Johnson said, lies in two areas that Tad Boyle’s Colorado teams have generally excelled in throughout his tenure in Boulder.

“Our defense and field goal percentage needs to get a little better,” Johnson said. “We’re getting by the ball pretty good, but we need to defend and take pat in that. We talked a lot about that.”

In scoring defense, the Buffs rank 11th in the conference as they’ve give up an average of 83 points in Pac-12 play, just ahead of Arizona State.

Despite the seven-game losing streak that the Buffs overcame with the win on Thursday night, Johnson said he believes they have what it takes to salvage the rest of their regular season.

“We win the rest of the games, it will put us at 21, there’s still time to turn it around,” Johnson said. “If we just keep playing, we all know what we’re capable of.”

The key, he said, falls back on their effort during the dark days on the schedule from here on out, where Johnson most tries to lead his team.

“Everything happens in practice,” Johnson said. “If you go hard in practice, a lot of times you’ll have a good game. I know we’re capable of doing it, we [have] got to just do it. At the end of the day it’s stop talking; it’s all action.”

Freshman Bryce Peters agreed with the sentiment, saying he and his teammates rely on their seniors to guide them through the tough stints they’ve had this season.

“I think it starts with the older guys because we all look up to them. We know that Derrick, X, Josh and Wes, they’re all going to be leaving and it starts with them energy-wise. If they bring the defense first, then the next time we’ll come in and give the same intensity,” Peters said.

Johnson finished the game against Oregon State with 10 points and three rebounds, but he’s shown all season that he’s more than capable of putting up bigger numbers than that on any given night.

Junior guard George King bested the Beavers with 24 points. His efforts were compounded by offense from freshman Bryce Peters (15) and junior Dom Collier (10). The Buffs finished with 50 percent shooting from the field to OSU’s 55 percent.

In a shocking move, Boyle chose to start Thomas Akyazili, Tory Miller, Bryce Peters, Deleon Brown and Lucas Siewert in place of his normal starting five.

“That move was more a way to honor and to reward the guys who come to practice every day that don’t get the minutes and haven’t gotten starts, because I started all four guys that haven’t gotten a start all year and then threw Deleon in there,” Boyle said. “Other guys have had their opportunities, so it was time that those guys deserved their chance.”

For a while, his stroke of madness seemed to work well enough as the Buffs gained an early lead on the Beavers, but the visitors weren’t ready to turn over easily. No matter how Boyle cycled through his strange starters and bench, the Buffs couldn’t shake the eager Beavers.

By the time the buzzer sounded for the half, the two teams had exchanged six leads and tied three times. At the break, the Buffs led by just one, 41-40.

Throughout the second half, Colorado started to take control and ignited a small run thanks to a five-minute scoring drought by Oregon State.

The Buffs return home on Saturday, Jan. 28 to brave No. 10 Oregon at 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.