It was, by far, the most complete 40-minute effort by the Colorado men’s basketball team this season. Yet despite a thorough 73-51 win against Oregon Saturday night that saw the Buffaloes lead rather comfortably from start to finish, something nevertheless was lacking.
Once again, the Buffs’ 3-point marksmanship was off the mark. Way off.
“Boy, when we start shooting the ball from three like we’re capable,” CU head coach Tad Boyle lamented after routing Oregon, “this will be a scary team when we put it all together.”
The Buffs still have more than one dismantling of Oregon to prove they have enough in the tank to win more frequently during the second half of the Pac-12 Conference schedule, which begins Wednesday night at UCLA (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network). No doubt, though, rediscovering their touch from the 3-point arc would provide a huge boost.
Despite a few hot-shooting efforts at home in the early weeks of the season — the Buffs went 10-for-22 on 3-pointers in a season-opening win against Drake and went 14-for-29 in a win at Air Force a week later — CU has struggled from long range since rallying for a win at New Mexico on Dec. 11 despite going 5-for-19 on threes.
The Buffs’ long-range struggles bottomed out against the Ducks with a 3-for-20 mark. CU went 9-for-40 on 3-pointers during the two-game homestand and is 12-for-56 (.214) over the past three games. CU’s season 3-point percentage dropped to .320 with a .294 mark in league play.
The struggles have been a collective effort. Junior Lucas Siewert shot an impressive .488 on 3-pointers in nonconference play but is just 11-for-33 (.333) in the Pac-12. Sophomore D’Shawn Schwartz, a .383 3-point shooter a year ago, fell to .281 this season after going 0-for-5 against Oregon. Junior guard Shane Gatling went 1-for-8 against the Ducks and is just 13-for-50 (.260) over the past five games, dropping his season percentage to .303.
“We saw it early, and it’s not like we’re shooting badly because we’re taking tough, contested shots,” Boyle said. “We were really shooting the ball well in November and December. It’s gone away. I see us in practice every day. We do a lot of reps. I think that will come in time. But if it doesn’t, we’ve got to keep defending and keep rebounding. But when it does and we put all three of those things together, look out. This team can beat anybody.”
Boyle noted that despite a 3-for-20 night against Oregon, his club still defended and dominated the glass well enough to win by 22 points. Still, some of the Buffs’ close losses might have gone the other way with just a few more timely 3-pointers, and the arc always is a welcome equalizer on the road as the Buffs visit the Bruins and USC. Getting hot from long range would bolster CU’s thin margin for error.
“We’re the same team tonight (against Oregon) that we’re going to be when we go to L.A. The same team we were Thursday (against Oregon State),” junior forward Lucas Siewert said. “I think if we can just keep this mentality going we can be the same team every night.”