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Regaining defensive edge the goal for CU Buffs before visiting Washington State

Solid offensive showing at UW negated by defensive letdowns

Colorado's Eli Parquet guards Washington's Quade Green during the Buffs' loss on Wednesday in Seattle.
Colorado’s Eli Parquet guards Washington’s Quade Green during the Buffs’ loss on Wednesday in Seattle.

SEATTLE — Colorado reached 80 points in a true road game for the first time in two years. The Buffaloes also recorded their lowest turnover mark in any game in nine years.

So how did a CU team that traveled to the Pacific Northwest riding a significant wave of momentum get derailed by a squad that had yet to win a Pac-12 Conference game? Even with the solid offensive showing, the Buffs simply got away from what they do best.

Always a defense-first program under head coach Tad Boyle, the defensive prowess that has sparked the Buffs for much of the season abandoned them in Seattle during an 84-80 loss at Washington on Wednesday night.

Granted, the Huskies connected on some tough shots during the second half of Wednesday’s contest. But a few tough shots doesn’t explain UW’s 12-for-25 night from the 3-point arc, or the 6-for-9 showing the Huskies put together while shooting 64 percent overall in the second half.

The Buffs going 1-for-18 on 3-pointers is the sort of frustrating night most college basketball coaches will concede is going to happen at some point over the course of a full season. Losing the defensive intensity against a team that has struggled to score for the bulk of the season is an issue the Buffs look to get corrected in a hurry before attempting to salvage a road split on Saturday night at Washington State (6 p.m. MT, ESPN2).

“They scored on 10 consecutive possessions between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half,” Boyle said. “Holy cow. You’re not going to beat anybody. That’s the bottom line. And it’s not going to be any easier on Saturday against Washington State. Maybe in the long run this is good for our guys. Maybe it will be a wake-up call and say, OK, we’re not quite as good as maybe everybody is telling us we are. I still think we have a together group. We have a tight-knit group. I love this team. But we weren’t good enough (at Washington).”

The loss dropped CU to No. 17 on Thursday morning in both the NET rankings and at KenPom.com, the latter of which features a Buffs team with efficiency ratings that are in reverse of what normally is expected from the Buffs. Despite the ugly performance from the 3-point line, the Buffs still shot .464 overall (.608 from inside the arc) and committed only five turnovers — the program’s lowest total since a five turnover game against Cal on Feb. 26, 2012. That left CU at No. 14 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency at KenPom.

However, the Buffs dipped to No. 33 in adjusted defensive efficiency. It’s a gap CU expects to shorten when they visit the Cougars on Saturday.

“We pride ourselves on defense and they shoot 64 percent in the second half,” CU forward Evan Battey said. “That’s not good enough. When you play a team like Washington that hasn’t played to their capabilities yet in the season, they’re going to have a breakout game. We just hoped it wasn’t against us. Unfortunately it was. We’ve got to expect that. We’ve got to expect that that’s their mindset for them to get a big-time win over us. We’ve got to come out and prepare for it and be ready to handle it. How do we bounce back? Win the next game. We’ll see if we have the mental toughness and mental focus to bounce back.”