The Colorado Buffaloes remain far too young and inconsistent for head coach Tad Boyle to feel comfortable believing any of his team’s most glaring issues may have turned a corner.
Still, the numbers indicate the Buffs might be solving the turnover problem that has dogged the team for much of the season.
As the Buffs continue preparations for their Friday night home battle against Utah (7 p.m., FS1), they do so while enjoying their most consistent stretch of the season in regards to turnovers.
“It’s game to game, it’s practice to practice with this group in terms of what I feel comfortable with,” Boyle said. “I know we’re capable of taking care of the ball and not turning it over. There’s no doubt about that. Whether we’ve figured that out and turned a corner, I think it’s a little premature to say that. But I know we’re capable of taking care of it.
“We just have to do it on a consistent basis, not only from half to half but game to game, and hopefully over a stretch of games as we come down the finishing stretch of the Pac-12.”
On Jan. 10 the Buffs committed 22 turnovers at USC, giveaways that led to 25 points for the Trojans in what became a 12-point loss for CU.
In the five games since, the Buffs have been far more protective of the basketball despite committing 17 in Saturday’s loss at then-No. 21 Arizona State — a figure bloated somewhat by four offensive fouls called against CU. After that USC loss the Buffs were averaging 15.4 turnovers per game. Even with the bloated total at ASU, the Buffs are averaging 11 per game over the past five contests. That stretch also includes the lowest turnover total of the season (six against Washington) in addition to two of the other four lowest marks of the season (10 apiece against Washington State and at Arizona).
Since returning from the Los Angeles trip the Buffs often have been forced to run extra sprints at practice as punishment for turnovers. The message seemingly is getting through, particularly with freshman point guard McKinley Wright authoring a steep reduction in his turnovers over the past five games.
“I’m trying to take it personal, taking care of the ball,” Wright said. “It’s the point guard’s job to take care of the ball and make sure your teammates catch the ball in the right spots. Before games now I come out and I work on my passing either with our strength coach or another teammate. I’ve taken it personal to come out and get some extra time in and work on my passing.”
From halftime of CU’s home win against Arizona on Jan. 6 through the following game at USC, Wright committed a total of 12 turnovers, committing all of his season-high seven against the Wildcats after halftime. Wright hasn’t been responsible for more than two turnovers in any of the five games since while accumulating just nine overall during that span. Through the USC contest, Wright had posted two or fewer turnovers in consecutive games just once over the first 17 games of his CU career.
“His ball-screen reads, he’s gotten better. He’s gotten better at taking care of the ball, there’s no doubt about that,” Boyle said. “A lot of our turnovers are dribbling, they’re passing, they’re catching, they’re footwork. It’s fundamental basketball. When you turn the ball over, it’s usually because of some fundamental breakdown.”