With four losses in their past five games, and their star player no longer available to suit up, the Colorado Buffaloes are struggling with confidence right now.

"I think so," junior guard Askia Booker said after Saturday's 72-51 loss at Arizona State. "Right now, I just don't feel like ... we're not competing with the best and we really could be."

As much as they are struggling with the mental aspect of their game, though, the Buffs (15-6, 4-4 Pac-12) have a bigger problem on their hands.

Offensively, CU has taken a dramatic turn for the worse since junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and key freshman Tre'Shaun Fletcher went down with knee injuries on Jan. 12 at Washington. Dinwiddie is out for the year, while Fletcher could be out until early to mid March.

Together, Dinwiddie and Fletcher averaged 18.4 points per game - Dinwiddie led the team with a 14.7 average - and the Buffs have not figured out how to replace that production.

The scoring average has dropped by 17.4 points during the last five games, from 77.6 to 60.2 and this stretch has produced CU's four lowest-scoring games of the season.

Following Saturday's loss at ASU, in which the Buffs had a season-low in points, Booker took the blame.

"I just haven't been playing well," he said. "I've been forcing shots. I've been turning the ball over too much. I take full responsibility for that. I'm trying to get certain guys more involved. Maybe I need the ball in my hands to distribute a little more and that has to be my mindset."


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The frustration of a bad performance against ASU probably led to Booker's comments, but in reality, that was his first bad game in the four full contests CU has played without Dinwiddie and Fletcher.

CU's troubles go well beyond Booker, though.

"We have to take better care of the basketball, because turnovers really hurt your scoring, and we have to take better shots," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "And, we have to get to the free throw line and we have to make our free throws."

All of those issues have hampered the Buffs of late.

In the last five games, CU's field-goal percentage has dropped from .455 to .414; its 3-point percentage has gone from .317 to .269 and its free throw percentage from .727 to .691.

Aggressiveness has been a problem, as well. The Buffs averaged 31.2 free throw attempts (and 22.7 makes) during the first 16 games. They are down to 13.4 makes and 19.4 attempts the last five games.

Perhaps the key to it all, however, is CU's ball handling. Without Dinwiddie, who was CU's best and most experienced ball handler, the Buffs have seen their turnovers go from 12.4 per game to 16.8 (18.0 per game in the four recent losses).

"We're not shooting a great percentage," Booker said. "But, if we don't take care of the ball, the shot doesn't get to the rim. That's a part of scoring, as well."

Even if the Buffs do fix some of those problems, they need players to step up. Booker, Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson are the only three that have come through offensively. The rest of the team has contributed just 20.4 points per game since Dinwiddie and Fletcher got hurt.

"We do have the (scoring) punch, but it's not the consistent punch that we need it to be," Boyle said. "That's exactly why we have to rely on our defense and rebounding. There's going to be nights when you don't shoot the ball well, even when you are a good offensive team and you're an efficient offensive team, which we're not right now.

"But, we've got to find a way."

With just 10 games left in the regular season, the Buffs don't have a lot of time to figure it out.

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/brianhowell33.