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CU Buffs get back to work, trying to regain form ahead of Pac-12 tournament

Buffs have enjoyed success at T-Mobile Arena in recent seasons

Tyler Bey #1 of the Colorado ...
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Colorado’s Tyler Bey, top, and his teammates enjoyed defensive success in an early season appearance at T-Mobile Arena, the site of this week’s Pac-12 Conference tournament.

The technology, along with the actual shots themselves, has failed the Colorado Buffaloes of late.

At the beginning of the year, head coach Tad Boyle and his program professed excitement at new shot-tracking technology that would allow Colorado’s coaching staff to get an accurate, digital assessment of how well the Buffs shoot the ball in each and every practice.

In recent weeks, the Buffs have abandoned that routine, as the trackers experienced “a little bit of a glitch in the technology that we invested in,” according to Boyle, forcing the club to track practice shots by hand.

It is perhaps a fitting metaphor, as the Buffs also have experienced more than a slight glitch down the stretch, with the defensive slump that was the catalyst of the team’s regular season-closing losing streak getting compounded by the Buffs’ most prolonged shooting slump of the season.

As the Buffs went through practice on Monday before departing Tuesday for the Pac-12 Conference tournament in Las Vegas, regaining their confidence on offense has become as much a factor in recovering the team’s swagger as regaining the defensive spark that spearheaded much of the team’s earlier success.

“Some guys have shot better in practice than they have in the games certainly. Some guys haven’t shot the ball well in practice or the games. It’s been kind of a day-to-day thing,” Boyle said. “The only way you’re going to get out of a shooting slump is to get in the gym and get your mind right. What I’ve really tried to focus on is don’t worry about the shots going in or not going in. Worry about taking great shots and taking care of the ball. If you do that as a good shooter, the shots eventually will start to go in.

“If you start getting tense, and you start worrying about your follow-through and your flight of the ball, you start getting in your own head. It’s a really hard cycle to get out of. I just want our guys to concentrate on shooting great shots. When you shoot great shots as a good shooter, you’re going to come out of your slump.”

The current core of the Buffs has played seven games at T-Mobile Arena, where sixth-seeded CU takes on Washington State in a first-round matchup Wednesday night (9:30 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks).

The Buffs shot at least 40 percent in four of those seven games at T-Mobile, but the three in which they fell short of that mark have been the past three in a row — including a loss against Washington last year in the Pac-12 semifinals.

However, the Buffs hit the T-Mobile Arena floor earlier this season at the MGM Resorts Main Event and won two games in a manner that could offer a blueprint for CU if the shots still aren’t falling later this week. The Buffs didn’t top 40 percent in either game and shot a combined 12-for-40 (.300) from 3-point range, yet they managed to top Wyoming and Clemson with the stellar defense that has largely abandoned the club during its four-game losing streak. Wyoming committed 19 turnovers and shot just .319, while Clemson’s second-half shooting percentage dipped after holding a three-point lead at halftime.

“It’s a perfect example,” CU point guard McKinley Wright IV said. “I think the 2012 team, they went seven minutes without scoring or whatever it was (in the Pac-12 title game) and won the game on defense and free throws. We don’t always have to score the ball to win. Defense handles a lot of that. We’re going to have our defense back with us this trip.”