LAS VEGAS — Like many, Tad Boyle believes the holidays are a perfect time for inner reflection.
As his Colorado Buffaloes spend a few days with their families before returning to Boulder in preparation for what is shaping up to be a heated Pac-12 Conference race, CU’s head coach hopes his players take stock of a nonconference schedule that included the program’s best overall start since the 1941-42 season, yet also included two losses to ranked teams by a combined 10 points.
“This is a great time of year for perspective, it’s a great time of year to give thanks for what you have and what we’ve done,” Boyle said. “I want them to do all those things. I want to reflect. I want them to be with their families. I want them to get away from basketball for a few days. And I want them to reconvene in Boulder, and we’re going to get after it.
“We’re going to have three or four good days of practice and prepare for the Pac-12 season, because again I love this team. I love the makeup of the team. I don’t worry how we’re going to respond to this. We’re going to respond.”
CU opened the season with a six-point loss against then-No. 7 Iowa State and dropped a 70-66 decision against No. 18 SMU Wednesday night in the final of the Las Vegas Classic. In between the Buffs put together an 11-game winning streak, the fifth-longest in the program’s history, but they must brace for competition in the Pac-12 that will more closely resemble what they faced against Iowa State and SMU than the bulk of the teams they feasted on in between.
“I love this team,” Boyle said. “We’ve got great fight. We’ve got great toughness. We’ve got great resolve. We just weren’t good enough down the stretch to beat a top-25 team. We have not been in this situation. You look at our nonconference schedule — at the front end a loss to a really good Iowa State team, at the back end a loss to a really good SMU team. Some really good wins in the middle, but we needed that marquee one. I thought we had it (against SMU) but we let it slip away.”
Pupil vs. teacher
Prior to Wednesday’s battle against SMU, Boyle expressed ambivalence at having to square off against Mustangs Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, Boyle’s collegiate coach at Kansas and a man CU’s leader considers a mentor. His tone didn’t change after the Buffs nearly knocked off Brown’s Mustangs, a team CU has faced in the preseason the past four years.
“It’s no fun,” Boyle said. “But on the other hand it’s a great honor. How many times do you have a chance to coach against a Hall of Fame coach? That’s why we scrimmage them, because it’s a battle. He makes you a better coach by playing against them. He makes your players better for them playing against them because they’re so well prepared.”
CU standout forward Josh Scott shot .679 (76-for-112) from the floor during the Buffs’ 11-game winning streak while going 62-for-74 (.838) at the free throw line. In the losses against Iowa State and SMU, Scott went 10-for-26 from the field and 3-for-10 at the free throw line. … Scott and Josh Fortune were named to the Las Vegas Classic all-tournament team. … Point guard Dom Collier failed to register an assist against SMU after averaging 5.2 in the previous six games. … CU recorded more turnovers than assists in five of the first six games of the season but had reversed that trend for six consecutive games before tallying 13 assists and 16 turnovers against SMU.