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Patience sometimes painful with youthful, inconsistent CU Buffs men’s basketball

Buffs look to rebound at Washington State

Terrell Brown Jr. #23 of the ...
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Terrell Brown Jr. #23 of the Washington Huskies drives to the basket against Nique Clifford #32 of the Colorado Buffaloes during the second half at Alaska Airlines Arena on Jan. 27, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.

SEATTLE — Even in the heat of battle, Tad Boyle has typically tried to employ a big-picture approach while directing the Colorado men’s basketball program.

For instance, heading into the 2017-18 season, when the Buffaloes welcomed a talented recruiting class pegged as the crux of the future — McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey, D’Shawn Schwartz and Evan Battey — the program operated accordingly, scheduling a relatively light nonconference slate to allow the youngsters to get acclimated to the speed of the game.

Minus the scheduling quirks, as the Buffs had nationally-ranked Tennessee and Kansas on the nonconference ledger, Boyle understood patience would be a much-needed virtue during the 2021-22 season. Yet that understanding sometimes only goes so far when the mistakes pile up.

“I knew going into this year I’d have to be patient,” Boyle admitted recently, before the Buffs embarked on their three-game road trip. “But sometimes I struggle with that.”

No doubt, it was an easy struggle on Thursday night. In a span of 48 hours, CU displayed all the triumphant highs and depressing lows common among talented but young basketball teams, as the Buffs followed their stirring comeback victory at Oregon on Tuesday by essentially beating themselves during a lackluster showing on Thursday at Washington, albeit with starting forward Tristan da Silva sidelined by an illness.

Poor shooting and, once again, turnovers made the difference in a 60-58 loss against the Huskies. CU finished with 16 turnovers, marking the fourth game in a row, and the eighth time overall this season, the Buffs have recorded at least 16 turnovers in a game. Boyle said after Thursday’s defeat if his club has been lulled into a false sense of security, given a handful of those 16-plus turnover games — Oregon (17), Washington State (17), Brown (16), New Mexico (18), and Montana State (16) — still produced victories.

With Thursday’s effort, CU edged closer to taking over the Pac-12 lead for most turnovers in a game with an average of 14.1. Only Stanford (15.5) is averaging more per game.

“We got great shots. But we didn’t make shots (at Washington) like we did against Oregon,” Boyle said. “This team has a false sense of security because they think, ‘Oh, we can turn the ball over 17 times and still win.’ Because we did at Oregon. Well, guess what? You did that because you made shots. If you do that and don’t make shots, you can’t win.

“We didn’t deserve to win the way we played. We didn’t. Our defense was good enough. Our rebounding obviously was not.”

As has been the pattern for these Buffs, they still have an opportunity to make it successful three-game road trip when they visit Washington State on Sunday night (8 p.m. MT, FS1). Like the Huskies, CU defeated WSU at home three weeks ago, and despite losses in three of their past four games and four of their past six, the Buffs generally have rebounded well from adversity in recent seasons.

They will need that trait to salvage a result at WSU with the window to make an NCAA Tournament push dwindling with each defeat.

“We’ve got to bounce back. We can’t play like we did (Thursday),” sophomore forward Jabari Walker said. “We’re better than that. We’ve got to keep improving and we can’t take a step backwards, like we did (at Washington).”