Suffering through some ups and downs certainly was expected with a young roster. And no doubt, it’s not like the Colorado men’s basketball team entered the season without any weaknesses.
However, 3-point shooting wasn’t supposed to be an issue. With seniors George King and Dom Collier leading the way, whatever predictable struggles bound to strike the Buffaloes’ cast of youngsters would be offset by a pair of veterans who already put together big seasons from beyond the arc.
Head coach Tad Boyle still is waiting for his veterans to warm up.
As the Buffs attempt to regroup following their third loss in four games, a discouraging 69-59 defeat against San Diego at home Tuesday night, rediscovering a consistent stroke from long range would help counter some of the other issues afflicting the Buffs lately.
“I don’t really know. We got a lot of good shots (against San Diego). Just wasn’t falling,” Collier said. “That’s on us. We have to make those open shots. Whatever it might take, getting into the gym with extra time.”
Tuesday’s 3-for-18 effort on 3-pointers dropped CU’s season percentage to .319. While it was the lowest mark so far this season, it wasn’t the first cold night from long range for the Buffs. CU went 5-for-17 in the season opener against Northern Colorado. The Buffs also logged sub-.300 performances against Quinnipiac (4-for-20), Drake (4-for-17), and Xavier (8-for-28).
In Boyle’s previous seven seasons at the helm, only the .318 3-point mark recorded by the 2013-14 squad is lower than the pace being set by this year’s Buffs — and that team four years ago played the final 18 games without injured guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who owned a team-leading .413 mark before getting sidelined.
Two years ago, King and Collier were the primary reasons why the Buffs set a program single-season record with a .389 3-point percentage. The duo combined to shoot .451 from 3-point range, with King’s .456 performance leading the Pac-12 Conference. That mark also was the second-best 3-point percentage in CU history.
This season has been an entirely different story. King has been tasked with providing support in the frontcourt, particularly in the wake of a likely season-ending injury suffered by forward Tory Miller-Stewart. Yet so far King’s rebounding prowess has come at the expense of his long-range game. His 0-for-5 night against San Diego dropped King’s 3-point percentage to .333. Outside a combined 8-for-14 mark in back-to-back 25-point games against Mercer and Air Force, King has shot just 5-for-25 (.200) on 3-pointers in CU’s other eight games.
King will go into CU’s Friday night home date against South Dakota State with nine consecutive 3-point misses.
Collier showed signs of getting back on track in the two games leading up to Tuesday’s loss, going 4-for-7 on 3-pointers. Yet against San Diego he went 1-9 overall and 0-for-4 on 3-pointers. A career .357 3-point shooter entering the season, Collier is only 8-for-33 (.242) this year.
It hasn’t helped that junior guard Namon Wright, a .348 3-point shooter in two seasons at Missouri, has gone just 8-for-28 (.286) in his first 10 games with CU.
CU’s five first-year players are shooting a combined .344 on 3-pointers, with freshman guard McKinley Wright delivering the most important shot of the season’s early stages with his buzzer-beating, 3-point winner against Quinnipiac. And while sophomore guard Deleon Brown has been somewhat inconsistent from long range, his .367 mark (11-for-30) remains a solid improvement from the .314 he posted as a freshman.
In short, if the Buffs hope to overcome their youthful inconsistencies to compete for any sort of postseason berth, the combined .290 3-point mark recorded thus far by the veteran trio of King, Collier, and Namon Wright must improve.