Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
CU men’s basketball preview: Arizona State Sun Devils
TIPOFF: Saturday, 4 p.m. MT, Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 850 AM.
RECORDS: CU 9-4, 0-1 Pac-12 Conference; ASU 9-4, 0-1.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 9th season (175-114, 231-180 overall); Arizona State — Bobby Hurley, 4th season (58-50, 100-70 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 14.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.5 apg; F Lucas Siewert, Jr., 12.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg; F Tyler Bey, So., 11.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg. Arizona State — G Luguentz Dort, Fr., 17.8 ppg; 5.2 rpg; G Remy Martin, 13.1 ppg, 3.6 apg; F Zylan Cheatham, Sr., 11.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg.
NOTES: The Buffs are just 1-7 all-time at ASU with five losses in a row…CU suffered an 80-66 defeat in Tempe last year…In back-to-back losses against Princeton and Utah, ASU’s opponents have shot .356 (21-for-59) on 3-pointers…ASU (plus-8.2) and the Buffs (plus-7.2) lead the Pac-12 in rebounding margin…CU starting guard Shane Gatling has shot 2-for-19 overall and 1-for-9 on 3-pointers over the past three games…Buffs guard D’Shawn Schwartz grabbed a career-best eight rebounds in Thursday night’s loss at Arizona…Backup guard Namon Wright, the Buffs’ only senior, was shooting .464 on 3-pointers (13-for-28) following CU’s win against UIC on Dec. 8. He is 0-for-6 in the five games since…CU plays its first home games in a month next week with dates against Washington State and Washington.
PHOENIX — Where oh where have all the points gone?
That is the most pressing question facing head coach Tad Boyle as the Colorado men’s basketball team attempts to get back on track Saturday afternoon in a Pac-12 Conference battle at Arizona State. When the Buffaloes raced out of the gate to an 8-1 start, albeit against mostly middle-of-the-pack mid-major programs, it was behind an offense both high-octane and versatile.
While losing three of the past four games, that offense has practically been non-existent. After scoring a season-low 62 points — in overtime, no less — two weeks ago at Hawaii, CU’s offense hit a new low Thursday night in a 64-56 loss at Arizona in the Pac-12 opener.
In transition, the Buffs are more likely to throw the ball away than get an easy bucket. And right now Boyle’s motion offense has ground to a halt.
“I don’t know if guys aren’t trusting each other or trusting the offense, but we’re trying to beat whoever … we’re trying to beat all by ourselves. Offensively, you can’t do that,” Boyle said. “You have to play for each other and with each other on offense and create opportunities for your teammates. That can be by screening. That can be by penetrating and pitching. But making simple plays.
“Our goal on offense is to take care of the basketball and take great shots, and we did neither of that in the first half (at Arizona). We’re just not clicking. We’ve gone from a high-octane offense early in the year to a team that is just really, really struggling. We can’t make a shot and our execution is not very good. We’ve got better players on our team offensively than the way that they’re playing.”
During that 8-1 start, the Buffs averaged 84.3 points with a .486 field goal percentage, including a .362 mark on 3-pointers. In the past four games, CU has averaged 63.3 points with a .405 field goal percentage and a lowly .286 mark on 3-pointers.
Granted, none of the past four games were at home — including the lone loss in that 8-1 start at San Diego, CU is averaging just 63.4 points away from the CU Events Center without once reaching the 70-point mark. Yet one of the more encouraging aspects of the high-scoring start was how the damage was being done from all corners of the rotation. In every victory of the 8-1 start, at least four CU players reached double-figures in points. That hasn’t happened in any of the past four games.
“We’re just trying to focus on us,” CU sophomore guard D’Shawn Schwartz said. “We just know if we can play our game, play how we’re capable of, we can beat anybody. We know what we can do.”
Of course, any discussion of the Buffs’ offensive woes has to include the club’s ongoing turnover issue alongside the sagging shooting touch. CU committed 17 at Arizona, its second-highest total of the season, and that effort pushed CU to No. 251 in the nation out of 351 Division I teams in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.92). Despite those struggles, the Buffs have a chance to get back on track at Arizona State. While the Sun Devils knocked off then-No. 1 Kansas two weeks ago, they since have lost at home to Princeton and Utah. In Thursday’s loss against the Utes, ASU led 28-11 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half before dropping a 96-86 decision.
For the math-challenged, that was 85 points by the Utes over the final 29-plus minutes.
“When you add the fact that guys are having difficulty hitting shots and finishing around the rim, when you add that to the turnovers, you really put your margin for victory at a razor-thin level,” Boyle said. “That’s where we’re at.”