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CU Buffs men’s basketball notes: Turnover woes all-encompassing for Buffs

Bench spark critical in second-half comeback bid

University of Colorado Boulder’s KJ Simpson shoots over UCLA’s David Singleton during the Pac-12 game in Boulder on January 22, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
University of Colorado Boulder’s KJ Simpson shoots over UCLA’s David Singleton during the Pac-12 game in Boulder on January 22, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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If it was just a matter of imploring his players to avoid reckless passes, or even sitting a particular turnover-prone player, curtailing the turnover issues plaguing the Colorado men’s basketball team would at least feature an easily-identified solution.

Yet on a team that often features a different leading scorer every night, the same can be said for the Buffaloes’ turnover problems. In any given game, anyone in the Buffs’ rotation might get bitten by the turnover bug.

In a 71-65 loss on Saturday night against No. 9 UCLA, CU committed a season-high 21 turnovers. While there were other transgressions — surrendering 11 offensive rebounds, for example, as well as a couple of late defensive lapses — none of them proved as critical as CU’s giveaways.

On a night in which the Buffs shot 50 percent, those lost possessions were what turned an upset bid into an 0-5 mark this season against ranked opponents.

During Thursday’s loss against No. 16 USC, it was standout sophomore forward Jabari Walker who committed five of CU’s 16 turnovers. It was the third time in five games Walker had recorded at least four turnovers. Yet against the Bruins, Walker was charged with just one turnover in 30:24 of court time, while fellow forward Tristan da Silva recorded a career-high six.

“Different guys, different nights,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Jabari Walker made great strides tonight. He had five of them on Thursday, tonight he had one. That’s terrific. He didn’t get sped up. You could see him really trying to take heed to the things he saw in our film session.

“All these young guys that are learning through these live bullets that are coming at them from really good teams and really good players, if our guys will take heed of that and commit to improving, and we can get those turnovers down, we can beat anybody in this league. But if we don’t, we’re going to continue to have nights like this.”

Bench punch

CU once again received valuable contributions from its bench, led by freshman guard KJ Simpson. Simpson went 4-for-4 at the free throw line and finished with 10 points and a season-high five assists against just one turnover. Simpson also grabbed seven rebounds, his second-best total of the season, after recording just one rebound during Thursday’s loss against USC.

Freshman center Lawson Lovering played only 15 minutes, but he shook off his recent struggles enough to contribute two points, two rebounds and an assist in addition to a few hustle plays that didn’t land in the box score. For instance, during the Buffs’ second-half rally, Lovering tipped an offensive rebound chance just enough to get the ball to da Silva, who converted an easy layup.

“Lawson’s minutes tonight were terrific,” Boyle said. “Luke (O’Brien) did a great job guarding (Johnny) Juzang in the second half. I thought both those guys’ minutes off the bench were terrific.”

Notable

Saturday’s attendance of 8,774 was the largest in 12 home games this season at the CU Events Center. The previous high was 8,688 against Tennessee on Dec. 4…Nique Clifford made his second consecutive start in place of injured senior Elijah Parquet and recorded a career-high five assists…CU senior Evan Battey made both his 3-point attempts, nudging his season 3-point percentage to .467 (14-for-30). With 15 points, Battey jumped past three players—Jim Davis, former classmate Tyler Bey, and Spencer Dinwiddie — to move into 28th-place on CU’s all-time scoring list with 1,121 points. Next up is Burdette Haldorson (1,125)…CU’s 16 assists matched its second-highest total of the season. All four of the Buffs’ top assist games of the season — two games with 16, two games with 17 — have occurred over the past seven games…CU’s co-all-time leading scorer Richard Roby was in attendance.

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