Did the Buffs peak from Nov. 15-18?
Tad Boyle is hoping Colorado didn't play its best basketball at the Charleston Classic to begin the 2012-13 season with a bang.
CU had the look of a dangerous, fearless NCAA Tournament team during gritty victories over Dayton, then-No. 16 Baylor and Murray State.
Despite playing four true freshmen, Boyle's team played the type of defense that the senior-led squad rode to the Pac-12 Tournament title last March.
The Buffs held Dayton to 32.8 percent shooting, frustrated Baylor star Pierre Jackson (3-for-11 shooting) and limited Murray State preseason All-American Isaiah Cannan to a 3-for-11 night from 3-point distance.
CU also executed its half-court offense during three tight games that went down to the wire.
"It's almost like we were playing over our heads in Charleston," Boyle said. "We were playing very well from the neck up. That has left us at times early in league play, at least in certain parts of the game. The mental focus is so critical in college basketball because there's parity."
CU committed 14 turnovers and allowed UCLA to shoot 51.7 percent from the field during Saturday's 78-75 loss the Bruins at the Coors Events Center.
The Buffs (11-5, 1-3) are 5-5 since a 6-0 November.
Relying on some more March Madness at the conference tournament in Las Vegas would be a fool's bet.
"It's not something that can wait because we can't afford to lose anymore games," sophomore point guard Spencer Dinwiddie said.
"We want to have the best record possible and still try to win this conference outright. That would put us in a great position to go to the (NCAA) tournament without having to win the conference tournament. That's not something we want to have happen again this year."
Boyle said the Buffs have "no chance" to turn this season back around unless the players start to hold themselves accountable.
"We've got some guys in different roles this year that right now, quite frankly, they're not handling it as well as I would like them to handle it or they would like to handle it," Boyle said. "They have to grow up."
CU misses the leadership of Carlon Brown, Nate Tomlinson and Austin Dufault.
Andre Roberson leads the Pac-12 in rebounding again. But the 6-7 junior forward is only averaging 10.9 points (fourth on the team) after taking only four shots and finishing with five points against UCLA.
Askia Booker, who missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have forced overtime, leads the team in scoring (14.9 ppg) but is only shooting 40.4 percent from the field.
Dinwiddie (14.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and freshman Josh Scott (13.4 ppg, 6.1) have been solid.
Xavier Johnson and Sabatino Chen, who have taken turns performing the sixth man role in conference play, have not been consistent.
CU's bench was outscored 11-3 by the Bruins, who have an eight-man rotation.
Boyle said the only conclusion he can draw from his team's poor effort in the second half of recent games is that players like Dinwiddie (36 minutes vs. UCLA), Roberson (35), Scott (33) and Booker (31) are getting fatigued.
Freshmen guards Eli Stalzer and Xavier Talton might have to be thrown to the wolves, or the Huskies and Cougars, the rest of the season.
"The thing with freshmen is I never want to put them in a position not to be successful. But I have confidence in them, I just have to be able to pull the trigger," Boyle said. "If I didn't think they were any good I wouldn't have recruited them. What it comes down to sometimes is do we have a better chance with Askia and Spencer in there or Eli and Xavier. ... At some point you have to say, 'You know what, we're 1-3 and they deserve some chances.' It's on me as a coach."
CU will try to make up for its first home loss of the season with a breakthrough Pac-12 road victory on Wednesday at Washington (9:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
The Huskies (11-5) are 3-0 in conference play with wins at Washington State, Cal and Stanford. It's the first time since 1912 the program has started conference play with three road wins.
"If you split on the road, that's pretty good," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar told the Seattle Times. "But we were able to sweep three on the road. I'm ecstatic that we were able to do this."
The Buffs will have to return to their Charleston Classic form to avoid being sleepless in Seattle.
"When it's not 75 degrees and sunny out, you better figure out a way," Boyle said. "Right now we don't know how to figure out a way. Part of that is our youth."
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