It took a while for Colorado to enjoy an extended run of home games. But the Buffaloes certainly are taking advantage of it.
Prior to a four-game homestand that concludes on Wednesday against Southern Utah (5 p.m., Pac-12 Mountain), CU men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle expressed confidence his club was close to being an above-par squad in terms of defense and rebounding. Offensively, Boyle admitted the Buffaloes still had a long way to go.
Getting a taste of home cooking has turned things in a more encouraging direction.
“Now that we’re done with school, a lot of guys have taken the time to come in the gym to work on themselves individually,” CU point guard KJ Simpson said. “Shooting the ball, taking care of the ball, things like that. It’s just a testament to how hard we’ve been working, in practice and also in our free time getting in the gym, getting those reps up.”
During the Buffs’ three consecutive wins at home — against Colorado State, North Alabama and Northern Colorado — CU has averaged 88.3 points after averaging just 61.0 while losing its first two Pac-12 Conference games. The Buffs topped the 50% mark from the field in all three wins and also produced three of the team’s four lowest turnover totals of the season.
CU (7-5) began the homestand with a 32.3% mark from 3-point range but has shot 38.3% (23-for-60) in the past three games. Individually, Simpson posted five assists with eight turnovers in the Pac-12-opening losses against Arizona State and Washington, but he has bounced back with 13 assists and three turnovers during the homestand.
Certainly none of that is to suggest CU has permanently turned a corner. The Buffs still are struggling at the free throw line (64.7%, 11th in the Pac-12) and the New Year’s weekend trip to face Stanford and Cal might provide a better gauge of just how much CU managed to improve during its December homestand.
Still, completing a home sweep against Southern Utah (No. 162 NET on Monday) would keep the Buffs in solid shape nationally going into a holiday hiatus. CU began the week on Monday at No. 48 in the NET and No. 53 at KenPom.com. Completing the home sweep also would give the Buffs something extra to celebrate over the holidays, as it would be a program-record 262nd win for Boyle at CU.
“You look at our turnovers the last three games. We’ve had 29 turnovers the last three games,” Boyle said. “KJ, I’ve been on him on his assist-to-turnover ratio. (Against UNC) and the last game, he has 10 assists and two turnovers. That’s fantastic. That’s efficiency. Our offense is coming and our defense is coming. We’ve just got to put it together.
“What I want from our team is I just want to be rock-solid. Defensively, we’ve just got to get rid of the breakdowns. We didn’t guard the ball as well as we need to guard the ball the last two games. So there’s still a lot of room for improvement. I don’t want people to think, ‘Well, they’ve won three in a row. They’re rolling.’ We still have a lot of areas we have to get better at, individually and as a team. I feel like our team is starting to understand that, though.”
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