SALT LAKE CITY — The business trip continues for the University of Colorado men’s basketball team. And the Buffaloes are hoping the shift of scenery from wintry Salt Lake City to the Phoenix desert helps warm up their game.
With school still on semester break at CU, head coach Tad Boyle opted to keep his team on the road this week instead of returning to Boulder, as the Buffs traveled to Arizona in the wake of Sunday’s loss at Utah in their Pac-12 Conference opener.
The Buffs will have two full practices at Arizona State in Tempe ahead of Thursday night’s battle against the Sun Devils.
“We’re going to watch film. We’ll watch it with the team (Monday),” Boyle said. “We’ve got a lot of time to get in the gym. We’ve got a lot of time to practice. We’ve got a lot of time to get better. We have to use these next three or four days to get better. Whether we’re back in Boulder or down in Arizona, it doesn’t matter.
“We have a court to practice on, and we have to understand what we didn’t do well enough (at Utah) and we have to correct those mistakes and we have to be read for Arizona State. Because nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves, Disappointing loss, but it’s not the end of the world and we have to bounce back.”
While it is far too early for the Buffs to hit the panic button, the Arizona State game has the feel of a must-win for the Buffs. CU concludes its season-opening road trip at No. 17 Arizona Saturday night, meaning a loss against the Sun Devils would leave the Buffs leaning toward an 0-3 start in league play.
The slate doesn’t get any easier once CU returns home, with dates next week against No. 4 UCLA and No. 25 USC looming.
“We’ve got to learn from the film,” senior guard Derrick White said. “We have to take what coach says to heart because that was embarrassing (Sunday). We’ve got to play a good team Thursday so we’ve got to get better. A lot better.”
The first lineup shift of the season Sunday at Utah was described by Boyle as more of a punitive measure than strategic, as a missed practice by George King following CU’s return from its holiday break was cited as the reason for Dom Collier replacing King in the starting five.
However, the lineup and rotation alterations may not be over due to the Buffs’ habitual inconsistency. While that has been a team-wide shortcoming, the inconsistency has manifested itself most prominently in two shooting guards CU relies upon heavily in King and senior Josh Fortune.
King turned in a solid effort off the bench at Utah, going 4-for-6 while recording 11 points and five rebounds, yet the reigning Pac-12 leader in 3-point percentage entered the Utah game with a 5-for-27 mark on 3-pointers in his previous seven games. Conversely, Fortune entered Sunday’s game having shown signs recently of breaking his shooting slump, but against the Utes he went 1-for-5 with a near-blank stat line in 14 minutes. Fortune went 0-for-3 on 3-pointers with one rebound, one turnover, and nothing else.
“When you’re as inconsistent as we are, it makes it really, really hard to know who to play and how much to play them,” Boyle said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get. We kind of know what we’re going to get with Derrick. Derrick was terrific (at Utah) but he didn’t have much help.”
The Buffs have lost their past six Pac-12 road games…CU has lost its past three games at Arizona State and is 1-5 all-time in Tempe…Boyle once again is participating in the Infinity Coaches’ Charity Challenge, a program that features a four-round online vote by fans to help raise money for each coach’s charity. Boyle’s charity is Special Olympics Colorado. Visit espn.com/infinity for more information.