What went right: CU outrebounded Arizona 36-30 and went 12-for-14 at the free throw line.
What went wrong: Early foul trouble on Lucas Siewert and Tyler Bey opened the door for Arizona to take over, and 17 CU turnovers prevented any chance at a comeback.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright. He led the turnover brigade with six, but he also went 6-for-10 with a team-leading 17 points, six rebounds, and two steals.
What’s next: The Buffs have a quick turnaround with a Saturday afternoon date at Arizona State (4 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).
TUCSON, Ariz. — Heard the story about the basketball team that couldn’t stop committing turnovers?
The Colorado Buffaloes have. Over and over again. And like the miscues on the floor, the same frustrating story keeps repeating, seemingly with no end in sight.
Despite a quick start on Thursday night, the CU men’s basketball team once again couldn’t get out of its own way, committing 17 turnovers in a 64-56 defeat at Arizona in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams.
The Buffs also played without backup guard Deleon Brown for the third consecutive game, and afterward head coach Tad Boyle announced the junior has been ruled academically ineligible for the second semester. Brown, who did not make the trip, still has an opportunity to work his way back on to the active roster, but at the very least will be out until February.
At worst, Brown’s season is done with his future at CU in jeopardy.
“Our inefficiencies on offense are putting a lot of pressure on our defense,” Boyle said. “You come into this building and turn it over 17 times, you’re not going to win. I don’t care what you say or what offense you run. We had opportunities to score in transition, but we couldn’t finish and we turned it over.”
Coming off an often listless showing while losing two of three games at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, the Buffs actually put together a solid start, making their first four shots and five of the first six while taking a quick 11-6 lead. Yet with forwards Lucas Siewert and Tyler Bey each saddled with early foul trouble, the Wildcats outscored CU 33-13 over the remainder of the first half to take a 39-24 lead at the break.
Even when the Buffs played well, turnovers kept any attempt at a rally in check. During the opening 11-6 run, CU still committed the first three of its 17 turnovers. Midway through the second half, the Buffs used a 13-3 run to trim a 17-point Arizona lead to a manageable seven-point deficit with 2 minutes, 47 seconds remaining. Yet the Buffs still committed the final three of their turnovers during that burst, thwarting a chance to cut even further into Arizona’s lead.
CU’s 17 turnovers was its second-highest total of the season, and it marked the seventh game in a row in which the Buffs have committed at least 13 turnovers. As has been the case in recent weeks, the turnover issue started at the top of the offense, with point guard McKinley Wright getting charged with a team-leading six turnovers.
Wright overcame a recent shooting slump — he went 6-for-10 overall and 2-for-4 on 3-pointers before finishing with a team-leading 17 points — but his three-assist, six-turnover night dropped his assist-to-turnover rate to 1.47. He posted a mark of 1.86 last year as a freshman.
Arizona turned those giveaways into just 14 points, yet it still counted as 17 possessions in which CU failed to take a shot. On a night when the Buffs went 12-for-14 at the free throw line and outrebounded Arizona 36-30, it was the turnovers that made the difference.
“It started with me. I can’t have six or seven turnovers. That’s not going to win us games,” Wright said. “We had 17 as a team, (six) coming from me. That’s not going to get you a win anywhere in the country. I’m going to learn from it. I’m going to watch some film and correct my reads for future games.”
ARIZONA 64, COLORADO 56
Siewert 3-7 2-2 11, M.Wright 6-10 3-4 17, Gatling 1-6 2-2 4, Schwartz 2-5 3-4 8, Bey 2-9 0-0 4, Strating 0-0 0-0 0, Battey 4-8 0-0 8, N.Wright 1-3 2-2 4, Kountz 0-2 0-0 0, Parquet 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 19-53 12-14 56.
Jeter 3-6 1-1 7, Randolph 4-8 2-2 11, Smith 2-9 1-2 7, Akot 3-3 0-0 7, Williams 6-17 2-4 14, Luther 1-3 0-0 3, Lee 2-3 1-1 5, Barcello 1-3 0-0 2, Coleman 0-1 0-0 0, Doutrive 3-5 2-2 8. Totals 25-58 9-12 64.
Halftime — Arizona 39-24. 3-point goals — Colorado 6-17 (Siewert 3-5, M.Wright 2-4, Schwartz 1-2, Battey 0-1, Gatling 0-1, Kountz 0-1, Bey 0-1, N.Wright 0-2), Arizona 5-18 (Smith 2-5, Akot 1-1, Randolph 1-2, Luther 1-2, Doutrive 0-1, Lee 0-1, Barcello 0-2, Williams 0-4). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Colorado 34 (Bey 11), Arizona 28 (Jeter 8). Assists — Colorado 7 (M.Wright 3), Arizona 13 (Williams 6). Total fouls — Colorado 16, Arizona 15.