For the first time this season, Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle was forced to alter his starting lineup.
Exactly when Thursday’s missing piece, senior guard Elijah Parquet, will return to the mix apparently is a mystery even to Boyle.
The Buffaloes played without their senior, Pac-12 All-Defensive Team selection during a 61-58 loss against the 16th-ranked USC Trojans, as Parquet spent the game on the bench with a walking boot covering his right ankle. Since the start of the 2020-21 season, it was the only time Parquet has been absent from the starting lineup except for a lone game he missed early last season while dealing with coronavirus protocols.
Sophomore Nique Clifford replaced Parquet in the starting lineup, but when asked afterward how long Parquet might be sidelined, Boyle offered a response that hovered somewhere between frustrated and cryptic.
“We’ll see. I don’t know,” Boyle said. “I don’t have any feel for that. I don’t know if he’ll be out a day or a week or two weeks or a month. I have no idea.”
While the Buffs apparently will cross their fingers in hopes of a Parquet comeback in time to face No. 9 UCLA on Saturday, Clifford acquitted himself well in his starting debut. The sophomore from Colorado Springs played a key role in a 10-0 run that gave the Buffs the lead in the second half, beginning the run with an emphatic fast-break dunk that will remain on the CU highlight reel the remainder of the season before capping the burst with a 3-pointer. In between, Clifford also delivered an assist to Luke O’Brien for a go-ahead 3-pointer.
Clifford went 2-for-5 and finished with five points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots, and three turnovers in 34 minutes.
“It’s a cool opportunity, but definitely didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” Clifford said. “I was just treating it like another game. We’ve got to just come back and bounce back on Saturday.”
The box score says sophomore Jabari Walker led the Buffs in scoring (13 points) while sharing the team lead in rebounds (eight). He also matched a career high with three steals. Yet those totals obscure what was a tough game for CU’s starting forward.
Although Walker went 2 of 3 from 3-point range, he was just 1-for-6 on 2-point attempts. More damaging for the Buffs, Walker finished with five turnovers, including one on late possession that denied CU a chance at launching a potential game-tying 3-point attempt.
It was the third time in five games Walker has recorded at least four turnovers. And with only one assist against the Trojans, Walker’s season assist-to-turnover rate dropped to 20 assists against 40 turnovers.
“I want every player on our team to really look at their assist-to-turnover ratio and take pride in it,” Boyle said. “There’s some guys that have to get better in that area. Jabari is one of them. He’s not the only one.”
CU’s 58 points was its fourth-lowest total of the season, trailing two 54-point outings (win against Brown, loss against Tennessee) and last week’s 55-point showing at Arizona…Two of the top CU opponent turnover totals have occurred in the past three games, as USC’s 16 turnovers matched Arizona’s total from last week. Maine owns the highest turnover total by a CU foe this season, committing 17 in the third game of the season…The 18 rebounds from USC’s Chevez Goodwin was the most by a CU opponent in Pac-12 play at the CU Events Center…CU starting forward Tristan da Silva had his lowest total of combined assists and rebounds this season with only one rebound and no assists. It was the first time this season da Silva went without an assist, and he matched a season-low for rebounds set previously against Stanford on Nov. 28.