At the outset of the season, Colorado Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle expressed confidence that one of his perimeter players would evolve into the role of a defensive stopper.
With 12 games remaining before the Pac-12 Conference tournament, that search continues.
Washington star guard Andrew Andrews torched the Buffs to the tune of 33 points in Wednesday night’s loss, once again exposing the Buffs’ shortcomings with a shoddy perimeter defense that has displayed little evidence of reversing its downward trend.
“Their starting backcourt had 50 points,” Boyle said. “We’ve been looking for a perimeter stopper on this team really since Spencer Dinwiddie left, and before that Andre Roberson. We don’t have that. When you run against a team like Washington with guards like Dejounte Murray and Andrew Andrews who are really good guards and terrific players, we don’t have an answer for that. Because we don’t have anyone who can step up to a challenge and lock them up.”
Each of CU’s top four perimeter players — Dom Collier, Josh Fortune, George King, and Tre’Shaun Fletcher — has shown flashes at the defensive end, yet none of them has fully stepped up to the challenge.
Fletcher drew the opening assignment against Andrews, but none of the players Boyle rolled against the league’s leading scorer slowed Washington’s perimeter assault. Nor did the occasional flashes of a zone defense in the second half.
The issue wouldn’t be as worrisome to Boyle if Andrews’ performance was an anomaly as opposed to the routine. Against Oregon in CU’s previous game, the Ducks knocked down 12-of-21 3-point attempts. On Jan. 8 Utah guard Lorenzo Bonam scored 17 points (seven more than his average) and drove past Fortune to convert the winning basket in the waning seconds.
Washington’s 8-for-17 mark from 3-point range dropped CU’s defensive 3-point percentage to .367, a mark that ranked 11th in the Pac-12 after Wednesday’s games. The challenge won’t get any easier for the Buffs on Saturday against a Washington State club that entered Thursday’s play ranked fourth in 3-point percentage (.378).
“Whatever we’re doing is not good enough, so we’ve got to take it more of a challenge and more of an emphasis now, especially with us being 3-3 in the league,” King said. “You never want to fall below .500. Hopefully that will rally myself and the other guys on the perimeter to get it done.”
While perimeter defense has been an ongoing concern for the Buffs, rebounding has been a consistent strength. That changed against the Huskies, as CU was outrebounded for just the third time all season. The Buffs also surrendered a season-high 15 offensive rebounds to Washington.
“We got enough stops in the second half (against Washington), we just couldn’t finish possessions with rebounds,” Boyle said. “We got outrebounded by a team that was 12th in the Pac-12 coming into this game in rebounding margin. They whipped us.”
Collier and King have combined to knock down 13-of-18 3-point attempts over the past two games. … The 95 points CU surrendered against UW was the most the Buffs had allowed in a regulation game since giving up 95 against Iowa State on March 2, 2011. … The Huskies’ 15 blocked shots Wednesday night set a record for a CU opponent.