EUGENE, Ore. — Tad Boyle looked at the final numbers and could only shake his head in disgust.
Sure, Oregon State employed a modest full-court press against the Colorado men’s basketball team Friday night. Yet in CU’s offensive zone, the Beavers predominantly utilized a zone defense. And still CU couldn’t protect the ball against what typically is a more passive form of half-court defense in a deflating 76-57 loss in both teams’ Pac-12 Conference opener.
“We turn the ball over 18 times against a zone. It boggles my mind, but we did it,” Boyle said. “It’s a combination of our ineptness on offense and also our inability on defense to get stops when we need to. Because that’s when we have to rely on our defense. In the first half, those runs were a result of our turnovers.”
No number explains the Buffs’ 19-point loss Friday night more appropriately than the 28 points Oregon State scored off CU’s 18 turnovers. After a couple recent games in which the team’s turnover issues appeared to perhaps be turning a corner — 11 against Iowa last week, a season-low nine two games earlier against San Diego — the issue again rose to the forefront Friday night. CU’s 18 turnovers matched their second-highest total of the season, equaling the 18 the Buffs committed in a double-overtime win against South Dakota State two weeks ago.
As the Buffs approach the halfway point of the season, they are averaging 14.7 turnovers per game. That mark is by far the largest of Boyle’s tenure, as his previous seven teams averaged between a low of 11.7 turnovers in 2010-11 (his first season) to a high of 13.4 two years ago.
The giveaways Friday night certainly were a team effort. Point guard McKinley Wright committed four. Seven-footer Dallas Walton twice threw the ball in the stands while trying to hit teammates in the corner. And in the end six different CU players were charged with at least two turnovers.
“The frustrating thing for me is the inability to pass the ball and catch the ball cleanly against a zone,” Boyle said. “Oregon State, they gamble, they deflect balls, they’re long, they’re athletic, but that’s no excuse. They’re playing zone because, I think, they can’t guard us man. Or maybe it’s just we’re so bad against the zone. Obviously they watched the Iowa film and saw that. Our zone offense in practice is really good. But our game slippage is, holy cow it’s off the charts.”
From their youth to their thin depth in the frontcourt — a problem that has been magnified by Tory Miller-Stewart’s season-ending injury — the Buffs expected to work through a number of weaknesses this season.
Three-point shooting wasn’t supposed to be one of them, yet so far CU is laying enough long-range bricks to perhaps erect a new practice facility.
George King entered the season on the cusp of taking over the program’s all-time lead in 3-point percentage. Fellow senior Dom Collier shot 44 percent two seasons ago. And transfer Namon Wright posted a .348 mark on 3-pointers in two seasons at Missouri.
None of those pedigrees have mattered so far for the Buffs. Friday’s 7-for-25 mark from 3-point range dropped CU’s 3-point percentage to .326. CU ranks 11th in the league in that department and inched closer to the bottom, as Oregon State (ranked 12th in 3-pointers) improved from .299 to .305 by going 6-for-15 against the Buffs.
King led the Pac-12 with a .456 3-point percentage two years ago but currently owns a .353 mark. Collier, despite going 2-for-3 on Friday, is at .279. Wright’s first two attempts at OSU went halfway down before rattling out, yet his 0-for-3 finish dropped his 3-point mark to .275. And D’Shawn Schwartz, the best 3-point shooter in CU’s highly touted freshman class, is only 5-for-18 (.278) on 3-pointers.
The extra work the Buffs have put in on their 3-point woes hasn’t helped.
“We had our guys, the night we came back from Christmas, shoot a hundred threes,” Boyle said. “Those numbers were really good. I told them there’s three kinds of shooters. There’s non-shooters. There’s practice shooters. And there’s game shooters. Right now, we’ve got a lot of practice shooters. They can shoot it well in practice, but you get those open looks in games we can’t knock them down. Eventually we’re going to have to be able to do that to score in this league.”
Over the past four games, freshman Tyler Bey has shot 11-for-20 while averaging eight points and 7.3 rebounds…Dating back to last season, the Buffs have lost five consecutive road games. That doesn’t include last week’s neutral-court loss against Iowa in South Dakota, which was a home atmosphere for the Hawkeyes.