Derrick White taking control of CU Buffs men’s basketball attack

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado guard Derrick White has compiled 24 assists with only six turnovers in the last four games.

CU men’s basketball preview: Arizona State

MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (10-4, 0-1 Pac-12) at Arizona State Sun Devils (8-7, 1-1).

GAME TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network. Radio — 760 AM.

Colorado — Tad Boyle, 7th season (140-84, 196-150 overall); Arizona State — Bobby Hurley, 2nd season (23-24, 65-44 overall).

LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G Derrick White, Sr., 15.0 ppg; Rebounding: F Wesley Gordon, Sr., 8.2 rpg; Assists: White, 4.1 apg. Arizona State — Scoring: G Torian Graham, Sr., 18.3 ppg; Rebounding: F Obinna Oleka, Sr., 10.2 rpg; Assists: G Shannon Evans, Jr., 4.7 apg.

NOTABLE: CU is 1-5 all-time at Arizona State with three consecutive losses…The Buffs are hoping to get a glimpse of the Josh Fortune that paced last year’s home win against ASU by going 6-for-8 with 17 points, four assists, three steals, and no turnovers…Gordon has made 12-of-16 shots over the past four games…CU’s Xavier Johnson needs two rebounds to become the 20th player in program history to collect 600 in his career…Reserve forward Tory Miller has gone 8-for-9 from the floor in the past three games…The Buffs complete their three-game road swing at No. 17 Arizona on Saturday and hosts No. 4 UCLA in its first Pac-12 home game next Thursday.

TEMPE, Ariz. — Almost halfway through his first and only Division I season, Derrick White appears to be settling into his role as the floor general of the Colorado men’s basketball team.

A month ago, the senior transfer from Division II UCCS was mired in a stretch in which his turnovers far outweighed his assists. White has completely reversed that trend over the past four games, and continuing that streak will be a key component in CU’s chances of picking up its first Pac-12 Conference win in what could be a high-scoring affair Thursday night at Arizona State.

“I looked at the stats and my assist-to-turnover wasn’t too good, so I’ve tried to focus on making the simple play,” White said. “Not trying to force things out there and just trying not to turn the ball over. We have to get a shot off every time and as the point guard I can’t be turning the ball over. So that’s what I’ve been focusing on, and my teammates have been making shots.”

While White has provided steady offense from the season’s opening tip — he shares the team lead with a .519 field goal percentage and has shot a solid .413 from 3-point range — assuming the mantle of CU’s director on offense has been a little more adventurous.

On Nov. 21, White recorded a season-best nine assists in the Buffs’ failed upset bid against now-No. 23 Notre Dame, yet he also committed five turnovers. After that game White couldn’t shake the turnover bug, as over the next six games he posted just 14 assists against 20 turnovers.

The past four games, though, have been a different story. In that span White has compiled 24 assists with only six turnovers. He is coming off an eight-assist performance in Sunday’s loss at Utah in CU’s Pac-12 opener, and there should be plenty of assists to be had against an ASU team allowing 82.4 points a game while sporting a league-low defensive field goal percentage of .471.

“One of the things I’ve talked with about is that I want him to stay aggressive in terms of scoring the ball, because he’s one of our best scorers too,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “That’s something Spencer (Dinwiddie) had to go through too. There was nights Spencer had to get 25 for us, and there’s going to be nights when we need Derrick to do that for us. But there’s also nights where we don’t need him to score because other guys are shooting well, and those are the nights where maybe he’s more of a distributor.

“That balancing act he’s done a great job of. He’s been playing very well for us offensively. My challenge to Derrick is to make himself the defender he’s capable of being.”

While Arizona State is vulnerable defensively, the Sun Devils boast plenty of firepower offensively with four players averaging at least 13 points. Boyle said he expects a high-paced game, though his Buffs will have to be far more efficient defensively after allowing Utah to convert a glut of easy baskets into a .525 shooting percentage in Sunday’s loss.

“They’ve got five guys that can really play. They’ve got five really good players,” Boyle said. “They’re very explosive offensively. It’s going to come down to us guarding the ball, and us guarding ball-screens. That’s what this game is going to come down to. If we can guard the ball and guard ball-screens, I like our chances. If we can’t, they can hang 90 on you very easily. Especially at home.”

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