EUGENE, Ore. — If there is a bright spot, dim as it may be, to be found amid a slide that has seen the Colorado men's basketball team lose five of its past six games, it's that a Buffaloes team relying heavily on youngsters generally hasn't backed down from competing.
The problem for coach Tad Boyle is that far too often of late, his Buffaloes haven't started competing until the scoreboard has weighed heavily in favor of the competition. Those poor starts have forced CU to battle from behind for much of the past few weeks, and it's a trait that won't do the Buffs any favors this week as they welcome No. 4 Arizona State and No. 14 Arizona to the Coors Events Center for their first Pac-12 Conference home games.
Boyle typically is the sort of coach who prefers to let his team play through big runs by the opposition. Yet following Sunday's 77-62 loss at Oregon, CU's leader hinted that might change in the future.
"We have to limit those runs," Boyle said. "Maybe I've got to use my timeouts more early. A 4-0 run, maybe call a timeout. I don't know. Those are the things we have to talk about as a staff. Because basketball is a game of runs, we have to be mentally tough enough while the game is going on to stymie those runs. And the way you do that on the road is you take care of the basketball and don't turn it over, and you guard. That's the bottom line.
"That would be my answer probably to what's causing the slow starts. We're not guarding out of the chute, and we're not taking care of the ball out of the chute."
Against Oregon on New Year's Eve, the Buffs committed turnovers on their first three possessions and had five within the first seven minutes of the game as the Ducks built leads of 13-2 and 17-6. CU soon battled back to within three points, but the Buffs never held a lead after stumbling out of the gate.
That scenario has been a familiar one. At Oregon State on Friday CU committed turnovers on its first four possessions while falling behind 8-0. In the Buffs' previous game they fell behind 12-4 in a loss against Iowa, and they fell into a 20-7 hole in a loss at nationally-ranked Xavier on Dec. 9.
"We just can't dig that kind of hole against any team, especially in our league," senior guard Dom Collier said. "We know coming into games if we dig ourselves a hole it's going to be hard to overcome that, especially when we're away. We need to figure it out fast."
In most of those previous instances the Buffs rallied, even taking leads against Iowa and Oregon State. Those early deficits will be even more difficult to overcome with two top-15 teams coming to Boulder, followed by a trip to Los Angeles to face USC and UCLA.
"We've lost our last three and we've got to find a way to keep guys confident," freshman guard McKinley Wright said. "We've got to believe in each other. Nobody believes in us but us. We've just got to stick together. We've got a great opportunity (this) week with some teams that are top-15 in the country. We've just got to go out and fight."