Perhaps it shouldn't be labeled as a well-deserved respite for the Colorado men's basketball team, given how the Buffaloes stumbled through two losses to open the Diamond Head Classic tournament in Hawaii after expecting to compete for a title.

No doubt, though, it is a well-timed break for the Buffs. How the club is able to regroup after returning to Boulder might make or break the entire 2018-19 season.

Colorado had a full 11 days to work with between a stirring comeback victory on Dec. 11 at New Mexico and the opening game in Hawaii, which saw the Buffs drop a 72-67 decision to Indiana State while committing a season-most 19 turnovers. From a number of sophomore slumps to an apparent regression while playing away from home, head coach Tad Boyle will have a number of issues to address when the Buffs reconvene this weekend to begin preparations for the Pac-12 Conference opener Jan. 3 at Arizona.

"We've got to build on the things we're doing well but we have to shore up the things we have to get better at," Boyle said after Tuesday's win against Charlotte. "It starts at the defensive end for us. First half was not good, but the second half was much better. Ball screen defense has to be better. Rebounding was better today but that has to be a consistent thing. If I think about one thing this team has to get better at, it's consistency. Consistency in taking care of the ball on offense. Consistency in getting great shots and consistency in defending and rebounding.


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"I'm not going to put too much into this (Charlotte) game. But we're 9-3...(and) we've got a chance to start league play with five of seven league games on the road. It's not going to be easy, but we're going to embrace that as an opportunity. We're not going to look at it as a negative thing. Everyone has nine home games and nine road games so we have to be ready to go."

While forward Tyler Bey has acquitted himself well, finishing the nonconference slate averaging 11.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game with a .565 shooting percentage, two other key members of the Buffs' sophomore class — guards D'Shawn Schwartz and McKinley Wright — enter Pac-12 play trying to shake off slumps.

Schwartz was a solid .383 shooter from 3-point range last year but has struggled to get on track so far this year. In three games in Hawaii the 6-foot-7 guard went 7-for-19 overall and 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, dropping his season shooting percentages to .414 overall and .250 from 3-point range (7-for-28). Compounding Schwartz's long-range struggles has been the inconsistent shot of junior college transfer Shane Gatling. Brought in to bolster the Buffs' 3-point efficiency, Gatling went 2-for-3 on 3-pointers against Indiana State but went 1-for-8 in the final two games in Hawaii, dropping his 3-point percentage to .302 after shooting 39 percent at Indian Hills Community College last year.

Wright's struggles have been a little less glaring, as he still is shooting .508 overall while averaging 5.8 assists and 5.6 rebounds. But after targeting an improved 3-point shot throughout the offseason after posting a .304 mark last year, Wright is just 7-for-30 (.233) from long range. More importantly to the Buffs' overall fortunes, Wright's assist-to-turnover rate has dropped from 1.86 last year to 1.60 so far this season.

The Buffs open Pac-12 play with five out of the first seven games on the road. If their backcourt efficiency does not improve, CU will be hard-pressed to shake off the disappointment of the Diamond Head Classic to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid.

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07