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CU Buffs men’s basketball notes: Turnover problems started at the top in loss against ASU

BOULDER,CO:December 1:Colorado Buffaloes' KJ Simpson is pressure Arizona State Sun Devils' DJ Horne, left, and Jamiya Neal in Pac-12 basketball on December 1, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER,CO:December 1:Colorado Buffaloes’ KJ Simpson is pressure Arizona State Sun Devils’ DJ Horne, left, and Jamiya Neal in Pac-12 basketball on December 1, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

For the Colorado men’s basketball team, the turnover struggles started at the top.

There certainly will be plenty of fodder for head coach Tad Boyle and his staff to pick through after the Buffaloes blew a 15-point lead in a stunning 60-59 home loss against Arizona State on Thursday in the Pac-12 Conference opener. But the Buffs’ turnovers was the biggest issue against the Sun Devils, and the bulk of those miscues came from the point guard spot.

Colorado finished with 20 turnovers for its first 20-turnover game since the Buffs committed 20 at home against Oregon on Feb. 3. Starting point guard KJ Simpson was responsible for five of those giveaways while his backup, Julian Hammond III, matched a career-high with four.

“Our guard play tonight was not good enough,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “When your offense struggles, it starts with your guard play. It doesn’t end with your guard play, but it starts with it. And the combination of KJ and Julian, we had nine turnovers. That’s our point guard position. It’s going to be hard to win when you have nine turnovers from your point guard position.”

Simpson struggled out of the gate, committing two of his three first-half turnovers in the first four and a half minutes of the game. Hammond provided a huge spark off the bench in the first half, going 2-for-4 with a 3-pointer while recording five points, three assists and three rebounds in eight-plus minutes. In only 5:37 of court time in the second half, Hammond committed four turnovers without a point, rebound or assist.

As a team, the Buffs were generous with the ball from the outset, committing two turnovers in the first 1:55, four in the first 3:16, and five in the first 4:29. CU appeared to perhaps get the issue under control, committing just three more before halftime. But the floodgates opened after the break, with the Buffs committing two more turnovers in the first 65 seconds and continuing to be careless the rest of the way.

“We weren’t really playing our game. We were getting sped-up and we were making uncharacteristic passes when we could’ve swung the ball and made simple ones,” said Simpson, who had posted five games with only two turnovers over the previous six outings. “When you let a team like that get going and they finally have confidence, things get hectic. So we kind of did it to ourselves.”

Gold standard dulled

Under Boyle, now in his 13th season, the Buffs have set game goals defensively of holding the opposition to 40% or less from the field while recording a rebounding advantage of at least plus-eight.

CU accomplished both goals against ASU, holding the Sun Devils to a .393 mark while outrebounding ASU 47-34, but the Buffs lost anyway. CU fell to 82-6 under Boyle while meeting those standards.


CU shot .438 in the first half but went just 6-for-21 (.286) in the second half to finish with a season-low shooting percentage of .377…Nique Clifford’s offensive struggles continued with an 0-for-5 night, though he added four rebounds, two assists and no turnovers in 22 minutes. Clifford’s season shooting percentage dropped to .360 after he posted a .453 mark last year…ASU snapped a 30-game win streak for the Buffs when holding the opponent to 60 points or fewer at home. CU’s previous loss under those circumstances was a 56-54 loss against Utah on Jan. 8, 2016…In his second game back from a shoulder injury, J’Vonne Hadley came off the bench to go 3-for-4 with six points and seven rebounds. In two games since a two-game absence due to a shoulder injury, Hadley has shot 8-for-10…Luke O’Brien played only two and a half minutes in the second half despite providing a bit of a spark in the first half with six points and three rebounds. O’Brien ended an 0-for-10 drought from long range with an early 3-pointer…CU lost despite holding ASU without a field goal for a span of 5:41 in the first half.