Following the worst loss of the season, and in the midst of one of his team's biggest slumps in recent years, Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle isn't about to abandon his principles.
Colorado (15-6, 4-4 Pac-12) has lost four of its past five games, including a 72-51 defeat at Arizona State on Saturday.
All five games have come since star point guard Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a season-ending knee injury. In four of the five, the Buffs have struggled offensively.
Against Arizona State, they struggled in a lot of areas, creating a bit of a "sky is falling" attitude among a certain faction of fans.
According to Boyle, though, the Buffs don't need big changes.
"We've got to get our mindset right, and ours right now ... the way we played in Arizona, we don't have an identity," he said. "We don't have anything that we can hang our hat on, night-in and night out. That's always been and always will be defense and rebounding, as long as I'm the coach. I've done a bad job of keeping these guys focused in those two areas. That's where we've got to get back to basics."
This is the first week of the conference season in which the Buffs play just once. They host Utah on Saturday, giving them a full week in between games.
"Not having a game until Saturday has allowed us to regroup a little bit mentally," he said. "It's a good week for us. It comes at the right time."
Boyle and his staff are taking advantage of the extra time to reinforce the fundamentals, rather than altering their attack.
Since arriving at Colorado before the 2010-11 season, Boyle has tried to play an up-tempo offense. This year, the engineer of that offense has been Dinwiddie. With him out, the Buffs have sputtered. The Buffs have struggled to hit shots and they're turning the ball over 16.8 times per game - up from 12.4 before Dinwiddie's injury. But, Boyle said he's not planning to change how the Buffs approach offense.
"I've thought about it," he said. "We're not going to change the way we play because we've turned it over. This group has proved that they can take care of the ball; they're just not doing it right now. I don't think our turnovers are as a result of playing too fast. We're not going to take the air out of the ball and try to make it a 50-50 game."
As usual, though, offense is not Boyle's chief concern. In recent games, the Buffs have not played the type of defense he wants, and they haven't been dominant on the boards.
During his three and a half seasons in Boulder, Boyle has seen his team out-rebound the opponent and hold them under 40 percent shooting in the same game 38 times. The Buffs are 36-2 in those games; 25-0 at home.
Boyle doesn't have to look back too far to find an example. On Jan. 18, the Buffs out-rebounded USC, 43-23, and held the Trojans to 36.8 percent shooting. CU won, 83-62.
"When we defend and we rebound at a high level, the wins take care of themselves," Boyle said. "Right now, we're not good at anything, but we're not bad. Arizona State, that game aside, we've shown flashes.
"Defending and rebounding and consistency: those are the three things that we're just trying to hammer home."
The win against USC is part of why Boyle doesn't believe big changes aren't needed in order to get the Buffs back on track.
They simply need better focus, and they need their star players to step up.
"For this team to be as good as it can be and for us to reach the levels we need to reach, Josh Scott, Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson have to be on the same page," Boyle said. "They have to be playing at a high level with their intensity and their focus and everybody else will fall into place."
The last time CU went 1-4 during a five-game stretch was from Jan. 3-16 of last year. Ironically, that stretch was identical to this one, with road losses to Arizona, Arizona State and Washington, a home loss to UCLA and the lone win coming at home against USC. ... Saturday's game is set for noon and it will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.