SEATTLE — Heading into the season, the depth of the Colorado men’s basketball team was expected to be a strength.
The Buffaloes still are deep, with head coach Tad Boyle using 10 players in every game. Yet the inconsistent play across the rotation has CU’s coach still searching for answers in regard to which combinations work best.
In a 73-63 loss on Sunday at Washington, Boyle once again shook up the starting lineup, returning forward J’Vonne Hadley to the starting lineup for the first time since a two-game absence, while also giving the second start of the season to graduate transfer Ethan Wright.
Boyle hoped Wright’s outside shooting touch would prove useful against Washington’s zone defense, but the former Princeton guard finished 0-for-3 from long range and 0-for-4 overall.
“It makes it really difficult because you don’t know each night who’s going to show up and who’s going to deliver,” Boyle said. “I started Ethan because I thought we needed some shooting against the zone. He couldn’t make a shot today, but that’s just one example. I put a guy in for defense, and he gets beat off the dribble. Well, that didn’t work.
“Having guys that are consistent really makes it easier on a coach. Having guys that are inconsistent makes it really difficult. Right now, it’s very difficult.”
Sunday’s starting lineup was the fourth different starting combination used by Boyle in nine games. Last year, the Buffs used just five different starting combinations in 33 games, and those alterations were spurred mostly due to a midseason injury to former CU guard Elijah Parquet and a two-game COVID absence suffered by forward Tristan da Silva.
Between a 15-4 UW run to end the first half, and a 10-3 burst by the Huskies immediately after halftime, the Buffs were forced into catch-up mode for the remainder of the game.
And catch up, they did.
Down 16 points midway through the second half, the Buffs rallied to within two points with 4 minutes, 7 seconds to play and remained within three on a Javon Ruffin 3-pointer with 1:39 remaining. It wasn’t nearly enough, but the competitiveness CU displayed gives Boyle hope his squad eventually will play its way out of its early slump.
“I do think we’ve got a very good competitive spirit on this team,” Boyle said. “And that’s what gives me hope. We’re in games. Now, we weren’t in it coming out of halftime. Just like on Thursday (against Arizona State) we weren’t in it coming out of halftime. But we were in it in the end. At the end of the game, you have to make plays.”
Ruffin briefly left the game in the first half due to a finger injury but returned…The Buffs’ 5-for-17 mark on 3-pointers dropped their season percentage to .323. CU went 16-for-32 on 3-pointers in an upset win against Texas A&M two weeks ago, but in the Buffs’ other eight games they have posted a .289 mark from long range…Ruffin has been one of the few bright spots from the 3-point arc. He went 2-for-5 on Sunday and is shooting .391 (9-for-23) on the season…Hadley was a bright spot offensively for CU, going 7-for-10 with 15 points. He has shot .750 (15-for-20) in the past three games since returning from a right shoulder injury…After committing 18 turnovers at UW, the Buffs are averaging 15.2 turnovers per game.