What went right: Perhaps the only silver lining in a lackluster loss was that CU recorded single-digit turnovers for the first time this season, finishing with nine.
What went wrong: The Buffs put on a historically poor shooting performance, posting a .259 shooting percentage that was the lowest ever by a CU team at the Coors Events Center.
Star of the game: George King. On a night when everyone in the rotation struggled, the senior recorded his third double-double of the season and 10th of his career with 14 points and 11 rebounds, despite going 4-for-16 from the field.
What's next: The Buffs play their final home nonconference game on Friday against South Dakota State (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
The Colorado men's basketball team got a good look at why the University of San Diego began the week as one of the top defensive teams in the nation.
Unable to get into any sort of rhythm offensively and once again suffering through a listless start, the Buffaloes could never recover Tuesday night at the Coors Events Center, suffering a 69-59 loss to the visiting Toreros.
Following a 6-0 start, the Buffs lost for the third time in four games.
Afterward head coach Tad Boyle described an opening-possession layup from freshman guard Lazar Nikolic as the sort of patient, work-the-ball-along the perimeter approach the Buffs needed to display consistently to break down the Toreros' tough defensive perimeter. Unfortunately for CU, that patiently-crafted bucket proved to be the exception during what otherwise was a frustrating night offensively.
"They're a great help-side team, they rotate, they make up for each other," Boyle said. "The thing about San Diego is you're not going to beat them on one play, one attack. The first possession of the game, when Lazar got a layup at the rim, we made seven or eight passes. We moved the ball side-to-side. They broke down and we got it to where we wanted to get it. We think it's going to happen after one or two passes or a ball screen, and you have to get them in rotations and moving.
"We don't have the ability to do that right now because we want things to happen easy. We want the game to be easy. We want life to be easy. And guess what? You play against good defensive teams, life isn't easy. You have to work for everything. Tonight, we couldn't knock anything down."
Like Saturday at nationally-ranked Xavier the Buffs came out sluggishly, making just one of their first 10 shots. That ratio didn't get much better as the night continued.
San Diego entered the week leading the nation in defensive 3-point field goal percentage and held the Buffs to a 3-for-18 mark from long range. Overall, CU finished just 14-for-54 (.259) to post the program's lowest field goal percentage since shooting .231 at Cal on March 2, 2013.
The Buffs needed two ultimately meaningless baskets in the final 63 seconds to avoid matching the program record for fewest field goals in a game. The team did set one record for futility, as it was the lowest shooting percentage ever by a CU team in the Coors Events Center.
"They're very sound defensively," CU senior George King said. "They packed in the paint. And when we did get into the paint on our drives they were tough twos and they played great team defense. Nothing that we hadn't seen. When you play against a good, physical team, you have to execute. Execution has to go up to another level. That was a challenge for us."
Other than Nikolic's opening bucket, the Buffs led at just one other moment, taking a 19-18 advantage with 4 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the first half. But San Diego ended the first half on an 11-2 run and started the second half with a 13-5 run, building a 16-point lead the Buffs could never fully erase.
Despite the shooting woes CU managed to stay close at the free throw line, twice cutting the Toreros' lead to five points. But seven consecutive points by San Diego kept the Buffs at bay, and the Toreros were never threatened again.
CU finished 28-for-34 on free throws, but it wasn't nearly enough for the Buffs to overcome their offensive frustrations.
"I've got to look at everything. Absolutely," Boyle said. "If we're not getting off to good starts, maybe look at the starting lineup."
San Diego 69, Colorado 59
At Coors Events Center
SAN DIEGO (8-2)
Pineiro 4-10 2-3 10, Neubauer 2-5 0-0 5, Massalski 1-3 0-0 2, Carter 2-11 4-6 10, I. Wright 6-11 5-7 20, Williams 2-5 8-8 13, Nelson 0-0 0-0 0, Gray 3-3 0-0 5, Floresca 0-1 1-2 4. Totals 20-49 20-26 69.
Walton 1-2 4-6 6, Brown 1-5 3-3 6, Nikolic 2-4 0-0 4, King 4-16 6-6 14, M. Wright 3-10 5-6 12, Schwartz 0-0 0-0 0, Bey 0-1 1-2 1, N. Wright 2-5 2-2 7, Collier 1-9 3-5 5, Siewert 0-2 4-4 4. Totals 14-54 28-34 59.
Halftime — San Diego 29, Colorado 21. 3-point field goals — San Diego 9-23 (Pineiro 0-1, Carter 2-9, I. Wright 3-4, Williams 1-4, Gray 2-2); Colorado 3-18 (Walton 0-1, Brown 1-3, King 0-5, M. Wright 1-2, N. Wright 1-2, Collier 0-4, Siewert 0-1). Rebounds — San Diego 38 (Pineiro 7); Colorado 37 (King 11). Assists — San Diego 11 (Neubauer 3); Colorado 4 (Brown, Nikolic, M. Wright, King 1). Total fouls — San Diego 23, Colorado 23.