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Fixing 3-point shooting becoming priority No. 1 for CU Buffs men’s basketball

Slower pace to start finals week for Buffs

BOULDER CO - November 9, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder's Eli Parquet takes a jump shot against  Montana State on November 9, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER CO – November 9, 2021: University of Colorado Boulder’s Eli Parquet takes a jump shot against Montana State on November 9, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Look at the track record. And not some of the unsightly numbers currently jumping off the stat sheet.

Following a win against Milwaukee on Friday, that was the message from Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle regarding his club’s woeful 3-point shooting. As the Buffaloes face a light workout slate early this week with final exams on hand, the poor 3-point shooting has been perhaps the only consistent trait for CU since the first week of the season.

The Buffs have played solid defense at times, have rebounded fairly well, and have shot decently from anywhere inside the 3-point arc. CU certainly has been inconsistent in all of those facets, and needs improvement across the board in order to compete for a top-half finish in the Pac-12 Conference.

The 3-point shooting, however, needs to improve just to be considered inconsistent. Given the past shooting pedigrees of a few of CU players struggling the most, Boyle remains confident the 3-pointers will start falling. Eventually.

“We’re going to have a night where we break out. We’re going to have one,” Boyle said. “I just don’t know when it’s going to happen. I’d like it to be sooner rather than later.”

Struggling from 3-point range is an anomaly for the Buffs’ program under Boyle. Four of top 10 single-season 3-point season marks in program history, including three of top five, occurred during Boyle’s previous 11 seasons. Under his watch the Buffs have featured a steady stream of dependable shooters, from Boyle inheriting Levi Knutson during his first season to Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker to more recent shooters like George King, Lucas Siewert and D’Shawn Schwartz.

Yet few Buffs teams, under Boyle or anyone else, have struggled from the arc quite like this one. Through 11 games, CU has posted a 3-point mark of .299. While it’s reasonable to assume the Buffs will finish with a number north of .300, only two CU teams have shot under 30 percent from the arc since the 3-point shot was introduced in the 1986-87 season (.290 in both 1988-89 and 1993-94). The lowest 3-point mark during Boyle’s tenure was .318 in 2013-14, the year Dinwiddie went down with a midseason knee injury.

Since putting together a solid 7-for-19 long-range mark in a home win against Stanford on Nov. 28, CU’s next four 3-point marks have been 5-for-21 (at UCLA), 4-for-17 (Tennessee), 4-for-20 (Eastern Washington), and 3-for-15 (Milwaukee).

CU actually enjoyed a hot start from the arc, going 23-for-50 (.460) in the season’s first three games. Take those totals out of the equation, however, and the Buffs have shot just .239 (32-for-134) on 3-pointers over the past eight games.

Jabari Walker shot .526 on 3-pointers last year in a limited role off the bench, but his otherwise strong start to his first year in the starting lineup has been offset by a .243 3-point mark (9-for-37). Senior Elijah Parquet shot .418 on 3-pointers last year but is just 4-for-20. Point guard Keeshawn Barthelemy was 11-for-16 on 3-pointers through the season’s first five games but is just 1-for-21 in the six games since. Role players Tristan da Silva (6-for-23), KJ Simpson (5-for-21), and Nique Clifford (5-for-19) have been unable to get hot from long range.

“We’ve got some guys on this team that are so much better shooting the basketball than their numbers indicate,” Boyle said. “I know we’ve got some guys who can. We got some good looks (against Milwaukee) that didn’t go in. That’s just part of it.”

This week, the finals lull might offer an opportunity to get in the gym to try and regain some confidence from the arc. The Buffs tentatively are scheduled to practice lightly early in the week with several off-days before ramping up preparations later in the week for Saturday’s home date against Cal State Bakersfield (noon, Pac-12 Network).

Three days later, the Buffs host No. 8 Kansas before embarking on the remainder of the Pac-12 schedule.

“The energy level was much better (against Milwaukee). It was different than Eastern Washington,” Boyle said. “I felt like our guys were dialed-in. Our energy and effort was better on the defensive end. We’re going to play against better teams. It’s going to be harder to keep under those numbers. That’s why offensively we have to get more efficient.

“This is a nice stretch as a coach, when you feel like you’re going to make some strides as a team. We’re not going to practice long during finals. But we’re going to be crisp and get after it and try to get better.”

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