Following KJ Simpson’s game-winner against Washington State, CU looked to capitalize on that big-time moment and start a new win streak in their trip up to Oregon.
The Ducks and Beavers had different plans. Colorado finished their latest road trip 0-2, losing both contests in close efforts.
As the Buffs continue to slip further down the Pac-12 standings, concern starts to set in more and more about the state of this team.
With roughly one month left in the regular season, here are three takeaways from a new low point for CU.
“The hump” is seemingly insurmountable
Road games are tough to win in college basketball, but the Buffs are not doing themselves any favors. The Buffs have lost their last five road games. They’ve competed closely in all five games, but have not been able to get over the hump in the second half.
Whether it be down four with four minutes left versus Oregon State, or down one with five minutes left against Oregon, CU has consistently put itself in striking distance with a few minutes left and then has consistently fallen flat.
A lot of it falls on the lack of cohesion between offense and defense. During a six-minute stretch in the first half of the Oregon State game, the Buffs’ defense held the Beavers to a mere five points.
That five-point total was still enough to outscore them though, as CU only scored four points during that same six-minute stretch.
When the defense shows up, the offense sputters. When the offense starts clicking, the defense seems to become more optional. The Buffs continue to shoot themselves in the foot during these road matchups due to the lack of cohesion between their offense and defense
“When your team is not playing to the level of their capability, it’s on the coach,” Boyle said. “It’s my job to find the answers.”
In weeks past, Boyle has questioned the effort of his players in the team’s puzzling losses. But after back-to-back losses out west, Tad is having to look himself in the mirror to drum up new ideas to create cohesion for this team.
Tristan is a Pac-12 First Teamer
Although the team didn’t break out of their woeful ways on the road, Tristan da Silva dominated this road trip.
The junior finished with scoring totals of 22 and 23 points, shooting just shy of 50% from the field on the trip.
It was the career-high 15 rebounds from the 6-foot-9 junior that really jumped off that stat sheet from the Oregon State game. 15 boards destroyed da Silva’s previous career high of 10, set earlier this season.
Da Silva added 22 points along with his 15 boards against Oregon State to achieve his second career double-double.
Boyle has emphasized the importance of developing da Silva’s physical presence inside. The new career high in rebounds shows the leaps and bounds that da Silva has made in his development this season.
Tristan has been the heartbeat of this offense since KJ went down with an injury at the start of the new year.
“Tristan gave us everything he had,” Boyle said.
Through all the ups and downs and inconsistencies in Pac-12 conference play, Tristan da Silva has cemented himself as a regular 20-points-per-game scorer in the month of January. He has picked up the slack that other team members have left and grown into the versatile big man Tad and company hoped he would be.
Without getting too ahead of myself, it’s fun to think about what next season’s frontcourt could look like with da Silva, Cody Williams, and Assane Diop.
Pac-12 Cellar Dwellers
After losses to Oregon and Oregon State, CU heads into the month of February 4-8 in Pac-12 play; good for ninth in the conference standings.
This 4-8 start ties the worst 12-game start the Buffs have had since joining the Pac. They were also 4-8 through 12 conference games in 2016-17. Times have seldom looked darker for Colorado in their tenure in the Conference of Champions.
The Buffs are currently a top-20 defense on KenPom, but that ranking is scuffed by a measly 135th offensive ranking.
While expectations weren’t too lofty, they have still seemingly fallen short for a young team that anticipated more guys to step up into larger roles.
And that youthfulness ties back into the lack of cohesion that has produced the current string of road losses in conference play.
Sophomores like Lawson Lovering have had to step into bigger roles that they weren’t totally prepared for, and have had to develop and refine their game through starting role minutes.
The Buffs’ season is nowhere close to over though, as the squad is back home with two prime get-right opportunities against neighboring cellar dwellers, Cal and Stanford.
Colorado’s next game is Thursday night against Cal. Coverage starts at 8 pm on the Pac-12 Network.