PULLMAN, Wash. - Tad Boyle gambled, and it cost him and the Colorado men's basketball team on Thursday night.

Following a disappointing 73-69 loss to last-place Washington State at Beasley Coliseum, Boyle said, "We had some players that normally play well for us that did not play well for us tonight. This is a game as a coach you second-guess yourself: I shouldn't have played that guy; I should have played that guy.

"That's what happens when you lose and you don't have good performances from some of your key guys."

Outside of point guard McKinley Wright and forward Dallas Walton, none of the Buffs played well, but it wasn't hard to figure out the main source of Boyle's second-guessing.

Senior guard Dominique Collier had a disastrous night. In 23 minutes, Collier went 0-for-5 from the floor, 4-for-9 from the free throw line and racked up five turnovers - his highest single-game total in two years. He also fouled out in the closing seconds.

Within his first few minutes on the floor, Collier had two turnovers, two other passes that Washington State batted down and two missed free throws.

"He wasn't ready from the beginning and I knew it," Boyle said.

Yet, Boyle didn't make a change, keeping his senior in the rotation and having him on the floor in crunch time. Collier's fifth and final turnover, with 28 seconds to play, led to a pair of Wazzu free throws that put CU in a 72-69 hole.

Boyle had other options, including freshman D'Shawn Schwartz, who played just eight minutes, but stuck with Collier, who has been fairly reliable most of the season.


Advertisement

"We have options and I chose not to use them tonight, hoping he would play out of it, and he didn't do it," Boyle said. "He's been playing really well lately."

Not on this night, however. Collier certainly wasn't the only Buff to struggle, but it was a night the senior would love to forget.

Starting Nikolic

Boyle played the odds with his starting lineup, too, as freshman Lazar Nikolic got the start for the fourth game in a row.

Nikolic's first two starts in this stretch came with Namon Wright out with an illness. Nikolic also started Sunday against Stanford, as Wright eased his way back into the rotation.

The Buffs won all three of those games, so Boyle stayed with the hot hand against Washington State, with Nikolic in the starting lineup again.

"Up until tonight, we had our best three defensive performances that we've had all year: against Utah, Cal and Stanford," Boyle said. "Now, we didn't play well against Cal, but we guarded. We held all three opponents under 37 percent. That's the thought process (in starting Nikolic)."

Not good enough

Wright seemed to get back on track a bit, going 4-for-9 from the floor and scoring 12 points - his best total since scoring 16 against the Cougars on Jan. 18.

He wasn't impressed.

"When you provide sparks, your team is on a run," he said. "It's not just a couple buckets here or there. It's a genuine spark. Especially against this team, I'm a bigger guard than most of their players, so I should have played better."

Wright added four rebounds, and said, "If I'm not going to come through offensively, I have to rebound better and guard the ball better. No, I don't think I did (have a good game)."

Notable

McKinley Wright had six assists, bringing his single-season total to 141 - just two shy of the CU freshman record by Chauncey Billups. ... Walton went 8-for-8 at the free throw line. He had attempted just 24 all year coming in, and only five in the previous 10 games combined. ... In all, the Buffs had a season-high 35 free throw attempts (making 26). It's the most CU's had in a game since shooting 38 against UCLA on Jan. 12, 2017. ... George King came up one point shy of a double-double, posting nine points and 11 rebounds.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.