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Tad Boyle vows Colorado men’s basketball will ‘hook it up’ this week in quest to get tougher

Colorado's Lawson Lovering, left, tries to block the shot of Boise State's Max Rice during a game Sunday in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Myrtle Beach Invitational/courtesy photo)
Colorado’s Lawson Lovering, left, tries to block the shot of Boise State’s Max Rice during a game Sunday in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Myrtle Beach Invitational/courtesy photo)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — After another discouraging loss, Tad Boyle was talking about practice.

On Sunday night, moments after another frustrating and head-scratching defeat, Colorado’s men’s basketball coach recounted how he had viewed the early weeks of the season prior to embarking on a long road trip.

After defeating UC Riverside in the season opener on Nov. 7, the Buffs took off on a two-week, five-game road trip that concluded with a Sunday night loss against Boise State in the finale of the Myrtle Beach Invitational. CU finished 2-3 on the trip, a mark that wouldn’t be so deflating if not for the manner in which it was compiled.

The two victories were stirring affairs that still could give CU a huge boost when NCAA Tournament credentials are examined in March, first defeating then-No. 11 Tennessee in what essentially was a road game in Nashville on Nov. 13, then routing a 24th-ranked Texas A&M team on Friday. Yet instead of building on those victories, the Buffs instead kept stubbing their toes, balancing those big wins with losses against Grambling State, UMass and Boise State that followed similar blueprints of shoddy first-half defense and turnover-plagued attacks.

A few weeks ago, Boyle considered giving his club a few days’ rest after the long trip, given the Buffs have a full week to prepare for a Sunday home date against Yale (1 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Not anymore. The Buffs traveled back to Colorado on Monday, and when they reconvene on Tuesday, Boyle promised it will be time to roll up their sleeves.

“We need to practice,” Boyle said. “We have not had an opportunity to practice on this trip, and it shows. We’ve got to practice. We’ll travel back (Monday). I thought about, depending on how this trip went, giving them a little extra time this week. We’re not in school. It’s time to rock and roll. It’s time to get back in that gym and get after it.

“Tuesday’s practice, we’re going to hook it up. We’re going to hook it up. Our guys are going to get tougher or I might have to get to a five-man rotation.”

In each of CU’s three losses, the opposition shot at least 51% in the first half, forcing the Buffs to play catch-up after halftime. The Buffs hope the upcoming run of six of seven games at home straightens out their shooting touch. CU shot lights-out in the win against Texas A&M (.576 overall, 16-for-32 on 3-pointers). But in the other four games during the trip, the Buffs shot just .250 (23-for-92) from long range.

CU also needs the week’s respite from competition to get healthy. Starting forward J’Vonne Hadley missed the past two games after suffering a right shoulder injury and is set to be re-evaluated in Boulder. Forward Tristan da Silva took a shot to the head early in the second half against Boise State and did not return while dealing with what Boyle described as a migraine issue. And while point guard KJ Simpson returned to the action after getting his right ankle rolled late against Boise State, at first glance it appeared to be the sort of ailment that could bother him more in the coming days than it did while he was still loose and full of adrenaline.

“Work on everything that we need to, especially at the defensive end,” Simpson said. “I said we’re going to learn a lot about ourselves playing different teams, having to learn the scouts real quick. There’s a lot of stuff we can build and work on. I know it’s still the beginning of the season, so within this week coming up we’ve just got to work on everything. It starts with watching film. And then it starts on defense, going through drills. We’ve got to come in and get shots up. We need to work on a lot. There’s not one thing we need to focus on.”