The loss hopefully grabbed the team’s attention.
How that reckoning affects the Colorado men’s basketball team as it shifts from one top-15 foe to another remains to be seen. But head coach Tad Boyle expects Wednesday’s loss at No. 5 UCLA will drive home the reality that the Buffs must play smarter.
After the Buffs exited Pauley Pavilion with a 73-61 loss, Boyle discussed the many small details within games that often came naturally to last year’s veteran squad, but have presented a tougher learning curve for this season’s much younger rotation. He also pointed out it’s much easier to get a team’s attention after a loss than after a win.
There’s evidence to support that thought, as recently the Buffs have responded well to defeat. Last year CU lost consecutive games only once (both on the road), and the Buffs bounced back from their first loss this season against Southern Illinois in the opening game of the Paradise Jam to close the tournament with two consecutive wins.
Keeping that trend intact will be much more difficult this week, as CU follows its visit to the fifth-ranked team in the nation by hosting No. 13 Tennessee on Saturday (noon, FS1).
“We’ve talked a lot about learning from wins. But there’s nothing like learning from losses,” Boyle said. “I’ll have my players’ attention more now that we lost a game, just like I did after Southern Illinois, than after we win a game. You’d like to think they listen to you all the time. The fact is they don’t. Hopefully they’ll do that.”
Boyle cited several instances where the Buffs cost themselves points simply because they didn’t think through the situations. UCLA reserve Jake Kyman doesn’t play many minutes, but he is a good shooter, and with the Bruins in the bonus CU fouled him roughly 30 feet from the basket. Kyman drained both free throws. Bruins point guard Tyger Campbell, who finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, also drew a foul on a long jump shot attempt.
Campbell only made 1 of his 2 free throws, but those situations highlighted the attention to detail Boyle believed was lacking for the Buffs on Wednesday. Just with those two plays, UCLA was handed three points in a game that saw CU trim its deficit to only four points with 9 minutes, 34 seconds remaining.
“Those are small little nuances,” Boyle said. “We put them at the free throw line too often. We’ve got to play without fouling. They only had 18 free throws, but it felt like we were fouling a lot. We’ve got to play smarter.”
Despite CU’s 6-2 overall record, the typical defense-and-rebounding mantras leaned upon by the Buffs during Boyle’s 12-season tenure have been strained. CU’s first two Pac-12 foes have shot a combined .482, with a 17-for-40 mark (.425) on 3-pointers. The Buffs were outrebounded in both those games, and CU has held its foes under 40 percent shooting only twice in eight games.
“(Tennessee) will be a good challenge,” sophomore forward Jabari Walker said. “It’s what we’ve asked for, it’s what we want. When we (get home) we’ll have to recover, get some rest, watch some film, be ready and learn from there.
“We’ve just got to box out more in rotations. It’s not necessarily about boxing out our man, but if we’re in help and figuring out the rotations. We’ll see it on film, but we’ve just got to find a man and box out.”