There’s no doubt that Colorado’s struggle to get much of anything done against good teams this year, along with a plethora of other problems, contribute to their losses. Here’s the breakdown.
Inability to overcome deficits
We saw it right away this season, when the Buffs went on the road to Laramie. Granted, Wyoming is always a tough place to play, up at nearly 7,200 feet. Arena Auditorium (yes, that’s the stadium’s real name) is always rocking whenever the Buffs come to play. While Colorado managed to keep the game close in the first half, it quickly blew a minor deficit when a 2-point lead became a 15-point lead. The 15-point lead eventually ended in a 23-point final (56-33).
We saw the same thing happen in both match-ups against Utah when the Buffs dropped the first game 74-49 and the second 79-51. After going down by 10 and 12 at each half respectively, the Buffs allowed the Utes to dig them into a deeper hole. The Buffs’ shooting failed to keep them in the game.
In CU’s last home stand against the Utes, the game got ugly as soon as it started. The Utes gained an early 9-0 lead, and it grew to a 14-point lead before the end of the half. The second half was even worse. The Buffs went down a whole 36 points before finally falling by 28.
At Oregon this week, the Buffs got off to a great start. In the opening minutes, they out-rebounded the Ducks 6-0 and gained an early 11-4 lead, but that didn’t last long. Joseph Young sparked a 24-4 run for Oregon after making seven straight points to tie up the game.
After going down by 18 points early in the second half, the Buffs fought back and cut the lead to five points with four minutes left, but the deficit proved too great to overcome as they eventually fell 73-60.
Shooting and droughts
This year so far, the Buffs have been averaging 43 percent from the field, which isn’t so bad at first glance. When you break it down in individual games, however, it’s a different story. Against Auburn, the Buffs shot an impressive 58.5 percent, which certainly helped boost their season average.
Auburn isn’t a very good team, however, and that was early in the season. Since then, the Buffs have had shooting drought after shooting drought. This has absolutely killed their game percentages. Washington, on the other hand, showed the flip side of the Auburn success. Although neither team shot particularly well, the Buffs only shot 31.7 percent.
After finishing with a 35.5 shooting percentage at Oregon on Wednesday night, the Buffs continued a five-game streak of shooting below 37 percent. It started with their 72-59 loss at UCLA three weeks before. Not surprisingly, Colorado lost four of those five games with the exception of the last home game against Stanford, who shot 33.3 percent themselves.
When the shots don’t fall, good college basketball teams rely on their defense to carry them to victory. However, after countless bad offensive performances that ultimately cost CU most, if not all of its losses, the team just couldn’t get its defense together.
Against Utah and Wyoming, the Buffs couldn’t get stops, and turned the ball over numerous times to give their opponents the advantage. When you don’t take care of the ball and can’t protect it from entering enemy territory, it’s near impossible to win games.
Colorado’s field goal defense for the year stands at 40.7 percent, which can be divided up among both the good and bad games. If the Buffs can’t put on the pressure, the season won’t get any better.
There’s no question that consistency has been a problem for CU this year. While it may not be as obvious on the court during the games, the Buffaloes have definitely lacked the work ethic to clean up their problems in tough games.
After practice last week, head coach Tad Boyle touched on the problem of inconsistent work ethic.
“It picks and chooses its spots,” Boyle said. “And it goes back to the consistency factor. When they want to, and they want to compete and win, they do. It’s finding that consistency and understanding how important it is.”
Boyle even went as far as to say, “I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest-working team I’ve ever been a part of, but hopefully that can improve.”
At the end of the day, the shortage of work ethic ultimately reflects directly on the team’s shortage of confidence on and off the floor.
“I think the only way you really gain that trust and confidence on the floor is when you perform well,” Boyle said. “There’s no reason why this team shouldn’t believe in itself, shouldn’t believe in each other. These are good kids, good players, they work hard. But they got to understand that everybody works hard, works harder.”
That, he said, is the real reason the season has been so disappointing.
“I think we’re capable of winning every game on our schedule,” Boyle said. “We’re also capable of losing every game on our schedule. The thing that this team should understand, especially at this point in the season with the way we’ve performed, is that we can’t take anything for granted.”
Contact CU Independent Basketball Writer Alissa Noe at email@example.com.