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CU men’s basketball: Status quo for starting five despite turnover issues

Colorado point guard Dom Collier has gone three games in a row without registering an assist but his shooting has remained on target.
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado point guard Dom Collier has gone three games in a row without registering an assist but his shooting has remained on target.

Following a loss against nationally ranked Southern Methodist two weeks ago, Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle hinted that lineup changes could be in the mix if his club remained unable to solve its collective turnover issues.

That SMU game ended a streak of five consecutive games in which the Buffs recorded more assists than turnovers. In the two games since, CU has been unable to reverse that trend, while point guard Dom Collier has gone three games in a row without registering an assist.

Yet despite the seemingly rapid improvement of backup point guard Thomas Akyazili, Boyle maintained on Tuesday that no lineup changes are on the horizon as CU prepares for its first Pac-12 Conference home game Friday against Utah.

“I judge these guys over the 15 games that we’ve played,” Boyle said. “Dom has struggled the last couple games. There’s no doubt about that. He’s capable of playing better. Thomas is playing well from his assists-to-turnover ratio standpoint. He continues to get better. So I’ve got confidence in those guys.”

“Everybody may not play well on a given night. We’re going to have to figure that out as coaches — who’s playing well, who’s not playing well. Dom and Josh Fortune weren’t playing real well against Stanford, so down the stretch they weren’t playing a lot. If they’re consistent, it makes those decisions a lot easier and a lot more simple. It’s not about who starts, it’s about who finishes, and that’s going to be determined based on how they’re playing that particular night.”

Over his past three games without an assist, Collier’s struggles have perhaps been magnified by the solid play of Akyazili, who has recorded 11 assists with just one turnover in nearly identical minutes during that same span. Collier’s play has not been helped by his somewhat frequent early foul trouble, a bad habit that reared its ugly head once again at Stanford and has often prevented the sophomore from getting into the rhythm of a game.

Akyazili has not recorded enough assists to rank among the Pac-12 leaders in assists-to-turnover ratio, but his mark of 2.6 (29 assists, 11 turnovers) would rank fifth overall.

“I’ve just got to try and stop fouling and try to stay in the flow of the game,” Collier said. “Coming into games I need to be more focused. I just need to come into games knowing the scouting report, knowing what my man likes to do, and playing my man straight up.”

To his credit, Collier’s play-making struggles have failed to dampen the improvement he has displayed as a shooter. Despite scoring just three points at Stanford, Collier still is averaging 8.4 points per game while shooting better than 41 percent overall (.414) and from 3-point range (.465).

It is an area where Collier retains a clear advantage over Akyazili, who missed all six of his shots the past two games and is shooting .340 overall and .379 (11-for-29) on 3-pointers.

“My field goal percentage is way too low at this moment,” Akyazili said. “It’s not good enough. There’s some other little things, but I think if I can improve that I can help the team a lot.”

XJ limbo

The Xavier Johnson watch continues, as Boyle said on Tuesday there still has been no decision on whether Johnson will attempt a comeback this season or take a medical redshirt stemming from the torn Achilles tendon he suffered last summer.

“We talked a little bit, and we’re going to visit a bit (Wednesday),” Boyle said. “I still don’t have any news definitively in terms of what he’s going to do. I think we’re getting closer. Had a chance to talk with his father today over the phone and we’ll visit over the next couple days. We’ll see where he’s at mentally and physically.”

Johnson still is not practicing in full team drills but has expanded his repertoire in the Buffs’ individual drills.

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