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Wayward-shooting road Buffs look to regain touch at Arizona State

CU seeks first road win against Sun Devils squad coming off COVID pause

TUCSON, ARIZONA - JANUARY 13: Guard Nique Clifford #32 of the Colorado Buffaloes looks for a shot past guard Pelle Larsson #3 of the Arizona Wildcats and guard Justin Kier #5 of the Arizona Wildcats during the first half of the NCAAB game at McKale Center on January 03, 2022 in Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Wildcats lead 32-28 against the Colorado Buffaloes.  (Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)
TUCSON, ARIZONA – JANUARY 13: Guard Nique Clifford #32 of the Colorado Buffaloes looks for a shot past guard Pelle Larsson #3 of the Arizona Wildcats and guard Justin Kier #5 of the Arizona Wildcats during the first half of the NCAAB game at McKale Center on January 03, 2022 in Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Wildcats lead 32-28 against the Colorado Buffaloes. (Photo by Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)
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PHOENIX — Colorado knew it was tasked with slowing down one of the most efficient offenses in the nation Thursday night at Arizona.

What the Wildcats did was put on a clinic. And although it was a forgettable loss for the Buffaloes, head coach Tad Boyle hopes his team was taking meticulous notes.

In a 76-55 defeat for the Buffs, Arizona connected for 29 field goals, tying for the second-most by a CU opponent this season, on 20 assists, which was the high mark this season for a CU foe. Arizona has suffered more turnovers than assists in only three of 14 games. CU has posted more assists than turnovers in only three of 15 games.

Clearly, those numbers illustrate the difference between the sixth-ranked team in the nation and CU, a talented team that has fallen short in its toughest tests so far this season while suffering three of its four losses against top-15 teams. If the Buffs indeed learned anything at UA they will have a chance to show it very quickly, as they complete the two-game desert trip at Arizona State on Saturday night.

“A learning experience for our young guys, without a doubt,” Boyle said. “But it doesn’t do any good if we don’t put the lessons that we allegedly learned to work (at ASU).

“The great thing about (Thursday) is that our guys can learn from it. A lot of the things that Arizona is talking about and doing with the offense are the same messages we’re giving to our guys. We have to move the ball, we have to cut, we have to have pace. But then you see a team that does it and you look at yourself and it’s like, we can learn from that. There’s some really positive things we can take from this experience.”

Of course, the Buffs will enjoy a more efficient offense if they simply find a way to knock down a few 3-pointers in enemy territory. While CU has shot a reasonable .358 on 3-pointers at the CU Events Center, the Buffs have struggled mightily to find the range away from home. Thursday’s 4-for-20 3-point effort at Arizona gave the Buffs a .220 mark (9-for-41) in their two Pac-12 road games. Add CU’s three neutral-court games at the Paradise Jam to that equation, and the Buffs are shooting a lowly .217 (18-for-83) from the arc away from home.

“I don’t have an explanation, other than maybe mental toughness,” Boyle said. “But I don’t know. It’s not anything physical, I can tell you that. Their habits don’t change. Their mechanics don’t change. It’s between the ears. If we miss open shots, we miss open shots. I just don’t want them taking bad shots.”

After dropping their first two Pac-12 road games against top-10 teams in UCLA and Arizona, the Buffs will try to take advantage of a potentially rusty ASU team while in search of its first road win of the year. Due to recent COVID issues, the game will be ASU’s first contest in 13 days and just their second game over 26 days.

“Just keep playing hard and getting better every day,” CU forward Evan Battey said. “If you keep getting better every day and focus on the process, the results and the wins will show. We’ll do well on Saturday if we get better (Friday).  It’s all about getting better. It’s all about progressing.”

CU Buffs men’s basketball at Arizona State Sun Devils

TIPOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m. MT, Desert Financial Arena, Tempe, Ariz.

BROADCAST: TV — ESPN2; Radio — 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Colorado 11-4, 3-2 Pac-12 Conference; Arizona State 5-8, 1-2.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 12th season (244-147, 300-213 overall); Arizona State — Bobby Hurley, 7th season (109-91, 151-111 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — F Jabari Walker, So., 12.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg; F Evan Battey, R-Sr., 12.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, .534 field goal percentage; G Keeshawn Barthelemy, R-So., 10.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.6 apg. Arizona State — G DJ Horne, So., 13.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg; F Kimani Lawrence, Gr., 11.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg; G Marreon Jackson, Gr., 7.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.0 apg.

NOTES: ASU has endured a few ugly defeats, including losses at home against San Francisco and Washington State, the latter of which featured a 29-point total for the Sun Devils. However, ASU also picked up impressive road wins at Creighton and Oregon, and the Sun Devils also defeated a solid Grand Canyon squad at home…CU won during its last visit to ASU two years ago and has won its past four games against the Sun Devils overall…After going 0-for-2 from 3-point range at Arizona, Walker’s season 3-point percentage dropped to .214 (9-for-42). In a backup role as a freshman last year, Walker posted a .523 3-point percentage (23-for-44)…ASU’s Jackson was the MAC Player of the Year last year at Toledo…CU returns home to host the two top-10 Los Angeles schools next week, beginning Thursday against No. 5 USC, which is likely to drop a few spots after losing earlier this week at Stanford.

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