CU men's basketball preview: Charlotte 49ers
TIPOFF: Tuesday, 11 a.m. MT, Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu.
BROADCAST: TV — ESPNU; Radio — 850 AM.
RECORDS: Charlotte 3-7; Colorado 8-3.
COACHES: Charlotte — Ron Sanchez, 1st season (3-7 at Charlotte and overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (174-113, 230-179 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Charlotte — G Jon Davis, Sr., 19.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.2 apg; G Malik Martin, Fr., 9.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg; F Milos Supica, So., 7.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg. Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 14.8 ppg, 5.8 apg, 5.6 rpg; F Lucas Siewert, Jr., 12.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg; F Tyler Bey, So., 12.0 ppg, 9.4 rpg.
NOTES: The Buffs have been outrebounded in consecutive games for the first time since late in the nonconference slate last year in losses at Xavier and at home against San Diego...CU has gone just .651 (28-for-43) at the free throw line in its first two games at the Diamond Head Classic. The Buffs entered the tournament with a .725 mark on free throws...CU also is struggling at the 3-point line, going 9-for-40 in the losses against Indiana State and Hawaii. The Buffs are just 30-for-115 (.261) on 3-pointers over the past six games...CU has played Charlotte just once, posting a 76-74 win at home on Dec. 28, 2002...CU guard D'Shawn Schwartz, a .383 3-point shooter last year as a freshman, is 0-for-7 on 3-pointers in the past three games, dropping his season percentage to .
Before his team took off on the long flight to Hawaii, Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle was asked about the delicate balance of such trips between enjoying the sights and taking care of business on the floor.
It was only four years ago when the Buffaloes previously competed in the Diamond Head Classic, winning the opening game before coming home on the heels of two consecutive losses. Despite the chance to enjoy sunshine and sandy beaches in late December, it wasn't an experience Boyle was eager to repeat.
"You fight yourself as a coach, because you're so concerned with winning games, but you also want your guys to have fun and enjoy the experience of Hawaii," Boyle said. "It's a new experience for them, so you want them to enjoy that. I've been on teams over there where you've won one game and lost two, and it's certainly not very enjoyable. I've been over there when you've won three games and won a championship, and it's a heck of a lot more fun. Winning cures a lot of things."
Hopefully the Buffs have found a few moments of enjoyment off the floor, because so far the action on the court has given CU nothing to smile about.
Boyle's club goes into the finale of the Diamond Head Classic against Charlotte on Tuesday morning needing a win not only to cure the woes that were exposed in a pair of confounding losses against Indiana State and Hawaii, but to at least temporarily stem the bleeding for a club that had been hoping to enter a wide-open Pac-12 Conference race riding waves of positive momentum instead of collectively scratching their heads over how to solve the myriad problems that have been exposed in Honolulu.
After having designs on at least reaching the title game to bolster the club's nonconference resume, the Buffs instead have been relegated to the last-place game against Charlotte, a 3-7 club that is averaging only 58.5 points per game.
The Buffs found different ways to beat themselves in the losses against Indiana State and Hawaii. In the opener against the Sycamores, CU committed a season-most 19 turnovers, which led to 20 extra points for Indiana State. The Buffs also were outrebounded 34-32, surrendering 11 offensive rebounds that gave the Sycamores a 17-7 advantage on second-chance points.
CU curtailed the turnover issue, sort of, against Hawaii but endured its most frustrating offensive performance of the season. The Buffs finished with a .339 mark from the floor, by far the lowest total of the season and the lowest total since posting a .259 mark in a home loss last year against San Diego. While the Buffs trimmed their turnover total to 13, seven of those were committed by point guard McKinley Wright, who otherwise kept the Buffs in the game by recording 20 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.
Against Hawaii, Wright and junior forward Lucas Siewert shot a combined 16-for-26 while the rest of the Buffs went a dreadful 5-for-36. The Buffs also played the Rainbow Warriors without backup guard Deleon Brown, who was in uniform but did not play for just the second time this season. Brown, a junior who has been a regular part of Boyle's rotation when healthy throughout his career, also did not play in the season-opener against Drake in what Boyle described as a coach's decision. His status for the game against Charlotte remains uncertain.
After the game, the Buffs will be released to go home for a few days before reconvening Saturday to begin preparations for the Pac-12 opener at Arizona on Jan. 3.