Rick Bowmer / AP
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Just before the Colorado Buffaloes set out on a road trip that ended with an 0-3 mark to begin Pac-12 Conference play, head coach Tad Boyle again lamented the glaring inconsistencies that have plagued his club.
Boyle did note that one of the exceptions to this shortcoming had been the play of senior Derrick White. Yet even after a road trip highlighted by a 35-point eruption from White, the Buffs’ point guard proved he isn’t immune to an issue that is threatening to derail CU’s NCAA Tournament ambitions.
With 16 games in the books and a minimum of 16 remaining, time is running out for the Buffs to become a more consistent bunch.
“I think we can do it. I think we can be more consistent,” senior Xavier Johnson said. “It takes not just the starting five though, it takes everybody. People coming in the game have to be ready to play and play hard. If every man does that, then we’ll be fine.”
As CU prepares for its first Pac-12 home game Thursday against No. 4 UCLA (9 p.m., FS1), here is a look at the ups and downs suffered so far by the Buffs’ starting five.
G Josh Fortune
Even when Fortune struggled to make other contributions last year, he generally was a steady 3-point shooter, finishing with a solid .385 mark from long range. A season-long shooting slump showed signs of being in Fortune’s past when he went 7-for-15 on 3-pointers in the final three nonconference games, but he went 0-for-8 in the first three Pac-12 games, dropping his season 3-point percentage to .283. Though he scored only five points at Arizona State, Fortune helped make up for Xavier Johnson’s absence in the second half by finishing with four rebounds, four assists, and just one turnover. In CU’s other two Pac-12 games combined, he had three rebounds, one assist, and four turnovers.
F Wesley Gordon
The model of inconsistency, Gordon once again teased with his talent at Arizona, going 6-for-8 from the floor and finishing with 16 points, nine rebounds, two assists, and no turnovers in 26 minutes. Yet such performances remain too few and far between for Gordon, who managed just four rebounds apiece in each of CU’s first two Pac-12 games. That included four rebounds against an ASU team that has a firm handle on last-place in the league in rebounding margin. Gordon has gone 19-for-27 from the floor over the past six games, but posting that sort of mark while averaging just 4.5 attempts per game won’t be enough to carry the Buffs in the second half of the season.
F Xavier Johnson
The senior arguably has been CU’s most consistent scorer in his return from a torn Achilles tendon, getting held to single-digit points just four times in 16 games. Still, for a player whose Twitter handle is @XtheCreator he doesn’t often create shots for his teammates with just 11 assists all season. And while his ejection last week at Arizona State was a questionable officiating verdict, getting involved in a melee late in the first half of a game in which he started a torrid 6-for-7 instead of walking away may have cost the Buffs a very winnable road game.
G George King
The fourth-year junior gradually has evolved into one of CU’s steadiest rebounders, posting his fifth double-double of the season at Arizona with 12 points and 11 rebounds, increasing his season rebounding average to 7.3. Yet the top 3-point shooter in the league last year has yet to find the range from beyond the arc, beginning the week with a .283 mark (King and Fortune are both 17-for-60) after hitting at a .456 clip last year. It was an encouraging sign to see King go 2-for-5 on 3-pointers Saturday at Arizona, but it was only the second time in the past 12 contests he has made more than one 3-pointer in a game.
G Derrick White
Though White backed his 35-point night at ASU with just seven points at Arizona, Boyle reiterated on Monday that “(White) quite frankly is the least of my concerns.” White certainly has been consistent enough to believe his scoring output at Arizona was an anomaly. However, the Buffs need their point guard to take care of the ball. In the two games in Arizona, White recorded eight assists with 10 turnovers. In the previous four games he had 24 assists with six turnovers, while in the six games prior to that he posted 14 assists with 20 turnovers. A more steadying presence at the point and less of a rollercoaster ride will be a requisite in any Buffs charge down the stretch.