Colorado will fly back home at the bottom of the Pac-12 standings after wrapping up a regrettable road trip with a 65-56 loss to Arizona State on Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Buffs (10-4, 0-2), 72 hours after blowing a 17-point lead at No. 3 Arizona, shot 26.3 percent from the field in the second half and 2-for-19 from behind the arc against the improved Sun Devils (13-2, 2-0).
But what really ruined Tad Boyle's 50th birthday was CU once again allowing the defense to rest after a fast start.
The Buffs led 17-4 before Carrick Felix (20 points, eight rebounds) and Jordan Bachynski (16 points, nine blocks) did as they pleased.
"We're on the road tobeing 0-18," Boyle said. "If we don't guard, it doesn't matter if you're home or on the road. It better be a wake-up call. I thought maybe the game at Arizona was a wake-up call."
CU led 21-7 with just under nine minutes left in the first half at Arizona on Thursday night. This time the visitors had a 20-7 head start nine minutes in.
"As a group we stopped playing defense and stopped rebounding," Spencer Dinwiddie explained after scoring a team-high 19 points and holding counterpart Jahii Carson to five points (the freshman point guard had been averaging 17.5 ppg). "If 17-4 becomes 25-8, then we're not having this conversation right now.
After a Dinwiddie field goal brought CU to within 44-43 with 9:51 remaining, the visitors went seven minutes and 15 seconds without scoring.
That allowed the Sun Devils, who improved to 11-1 in their home court, to rattle off 11 unanswered points before Xavier Johnson ended the drought with a basket to make the score 55-45.
"We let the frustrations on the offensive end, when the shots aren't going in or we're getting our shots blocked at the rim, we're letting that bleed over defensively," Boyle said. "We're not tough enough mentally yet."
The Buffs missed 13 consecutive 3-pointers until Askia Booker finally found the bottom of the net from distance to close the gap to 57-51.
An offensive rebounds and put back by Johnson had the Buffs believing down 58-53 with 1:11 left. But Bachynski stepped to the line and made a pair of free throws to make it a three-possession game (60-53).
"He was the difference in the game," Boyle said.
The Sun Devils tied the score 39-39 on a tip-in by Jonathan Gilling off a missed free throw. Moments later, the home team took its first lead (41-39) with 12:36 remaining on a basket by Felix after Andre Roberson had a layup blocked on the other end.
After the 7-foot-2 Bachynski swatted away a dunk attempt by Johnson and a shot in the paint by Josh Scott, the Sun Devils took a 48-43 lead on Carson's first field goal of the game.
"I definitely anticipated (Bachynski) was going to give us trouble," Roberson said after finishing with five points on 2-for-10 shooting and grabbing 13 rebounds. "We played terrible. I'm not going to blame it on the refs or him, we just played terrible in general."
CU was unable to bounce back after the controversial 92-83 overtime loss in Tucson. At the end of regulation, the officials disallowed Sabatino Chen's game-winning 3-pointer after a video replay.
Now Boyle will make his players rewind the tape from two missed opportunities as the Buffs go back to the drawing board.
"In Pac-12 play nothing is going to be given to you," Boyle said. "These guys aren't going to bow down to Colorado. Now they're 2-0, and we're 0-2. Our guys have to understand it's about a 40-minute basketball game."
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanThorburn