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Another week out west did not spell success for Colorado.
The Buffs took on the Los Angeles schools this past week, falling to quality teams in both USC and UCLA in close efforts. Losing close games to quality teams doesn’t move you up the Pac-12 standings though.
Here are the three main takeaways from another worrisome road trip that leaves Buff Nation concerned about the outlook for the rest of the season.
So. Many. Turnovers.
The Buffs totaled 22 turnovers in their loss Thursday night versus the Trojans.
That was not only a season-high but tied for the highest total for the men’s basketball team since December 2020, when they allowed 22 turnovers against Tennessee.
It was also Colorado’s second 20+ turnover game of the season. In the previous four years combined they only had two such games eclipsing 20 turnovers.
The season-high 22 turnovers did not last long though, as the Buffs turned the ball over 23 times versus UCLA. That was the highest team total for the Buffs in seven seasons dating back to when they gave up 24 turnovers against Oregon State in January of 2016.
“We had ten at the half and our goal was to have eleven or less,” said Boyle. “We talked about that at the half and thought we would allow only two or three more turnovers, but that’s not what happened.”
It was always going to be tough to limit turnovers against a top-ranked defense in UCLA, but when Colorado follows up one season-high with another, it’s less on UCLA’s defensive skills and more on glaring issues within the Buffs’ offense.
Colorado now ranks 296th of 352 Division I teams in turnovers per game. The Buffs are actively handing wins to their opponents with these 20+ turnover performances, and something needs to change ASAP.
Loving me some Lovering
We saw Lawson Lovering have the best game of his young career last Thursday at USC.
The sophomore earned the first double-double of his college career against the Trojans, scoring 13 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
Lawson’s 14 boards were split down the middle, with seven coming on the defensive glass and seven on the offensive glass.
The Wyoming product had yet to total double-digit rebounds in any college game before shattering that glass ceiling against the Trojans.
“Lawson Lovering really grew up before [our] eyes tonight,” Boyle said.
Lovering had a quieter outing against the Bruins, but the Trojans game is still a promising sneak peek into what he can develop into.
The 13 points in that game came on an efficient 6-10 shooting around the rim. One knock on Lawson has been his inability to finish strongly in and around the rim. So, for the 7-foot-1 sophomore to piece together a 60% shooting night with a couple flashy dunks and oops, it gives the fans hope that the big man is beginning to settle into the college scene.
Coach Boyle has referenced how it’s tougher for big men to settle into the pace of college games.
“He’s a work in progress,” Boyle said. “He knows that. I know that. Coaches know that. Fans know that.”
KJ’s post-illness slump
KJ Simpson has been back in the lineup for three games since sitting out with an illness. In those games, the guard has given the Buffs 13 points per game on 35% shooting.
These numbers are decent, but a far cry from what the Buffs were getting from him before his illness. In Simpson’s three games prior to illness he was averaging 26 points on 46% shooting.
In this three-game slump, KJ also had a season-high in turnovers when he gave it away six times against USC.
Slumps come in all shapes and sizes, and the Buffs’ star guard will surely get back into his bucket-getting ways shortly. However, the lack of Simpson’s ability to take over the game throughout this slump has been a factor in the offense’s underperformance.
Colorado has seen their three lowest scoring outputs since early December across this three-game slump for Simpson.
It’s incredibly tough to point the finger at KJ; who’s still been CU’s leading scorer the past two games. But, with how much the Buffs have leaned on him on the offensive end this season, a slump from your star player is going to drag down the rest of the team.
We will see if KJ can break out of this slump when the Buffs host Washington at home this Thursday. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.