For the first time this season, the Colorado men’s basketball team will attempt to bounce back from a defeat. It might be an unfamiliar position, at least for this season, yet they will do so while addressing familiar problems.
Although the 20th-ranked Buffaloes, who will be in danger of dropping out of the national top 25 for the first time since the season’s opening week when the latest poll is released Monday, lost by only 12 points at No. 2 Kansas on Saturday, even head coach Tad Boyle admitted the contest was nowhere near as close as it appeared on the final tally.
The Buffs were out-rebounded, out-shot, and out-executed by the Jayhawks, who provided a template for Colorado to strive for during the stretch run of nonconference play. That run continues Tuesday night, as CU returns home to host an 8-1 Northern Iowa squad (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Turnovers remain a glaring problem, yet CU used stifling defense and strong rebounding to offset those issues through its 7-0 start. Only one of the Buffs’ first six opponents managed to shoot 40 percent against CU, yet in the past two games Loyola Marymount (.519) and Kansas (.529) have thrived against the Buffs’ defense.
However, after Saturday’s 72-58 defeat at Kansas, head coach Tad Boyle said he believed the defensive effort against KU, in which CU did force 21 Jayhawks turnovers, wasn’t quite as bad as KU’s final shooting numbers might indicate. That turnover total was the most by KU since it committed 28 in a season-opening loss against Duke.
“We have to be more sound. KU, that’s what they do, year in and year out,” Boyle said. “It’s Loyola Marymount shooting 50 percent in our own building, that concerns me a little bit. I thought we took a step backward in that game. (At KU) I didn’t feel (that) so much. Sometimes you have to credit your opponent. As coaches, sometimes it’s hard for us to do that because we’re so confident and we believe in our own teams so much that we say we didn’t play well. KU played well. You tip your cap to them. I don’t look at that as a trend because I thought defensively we were playing with great energy and effort.”
Offensively, the Buffs are coming off their worst shooting performance in two years, finishing at just 30 percent against the Jayhawks (18-for-30). A poor night shooting-wise is one thing, but for the Buffs to eventually reach their goals of competing for a Pac-12 Conference title and securing an NCAA Tournament berth, they must come up with a solution to the turnover problem.
CU committed 17 turnovers at Kansas. The Buffs are averaging 14.9 turnovers per game and have averaged 17 over the past three games. After recording only seven assists at Kansas, the Buffs’ season assist-to-turnover rate dipped to .765.
“We’re not close to our best yet,” CU point guard McKinley Wright said. “We missed a ton of shots that we’ve got to make. We had at least eight wide-open threes that just didn’t fall. We got some paint touches and we’ve got to finish in the paint. We haven’t played our best basketball yet, but it will come.”