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Buffaloes drop Pac-12 opener at Arizona

Buffaloes no showed in Tuscon

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament - Arizona vs Colorado Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes began the Pac-12 slate just as they ended non-conference play. In a display of sloppy, inconsistent basketball, the Buffs fell to the Arizona Wildcats, 64-56.

Colorado looked like they were off to a good start, but it was an illusion. McKinley Wright had 7 points to lead the Buffs to a 9-4 lead in the opening minutes, but otherwise, his night was mostly plagued by turnovers (he had 6) and missed opportunities.

That wasn’t just Kin, however, as his issues proved to be part of a team-wide struggle as the Buffs shot 36% (35% from 3) and had 17 turnovers against 6 assists. Much of those turnovers came by way of lazy passes, telegraphed plays and just plain poor handling. This particular issue, especially on the road, is as much ingrained into Colorado basketball as much as the Supa Dupa Tuba cheer.

Aside from Kin driving, there was nothing there for the Buffs offensively. They couldn’t find the open threes they need, and what looks they did get were forced and contested. CU was a disaster driving to the basket against a packed paint, what with their offensive fouls, turnovers and clunked layups. Perhaps Arizona deserves some credit for their defensive scheme, length and athleticism.

Even if the Buffs could find (and make) open looks, it wasn’t going to matter with the way they were playing on defense. Tad Boyle loves to mix in zone with man, but tonight, the zone was shredded and the man was overpowered. All Arizona had to do against the zone was move the ball until they found a wide open three. And against man, they couldn’t stop a simple dribble-drive. Arizona isn’t at all a good offensive team, but it’s not easy to look great with CU’s uncharacteristic defensive issues.

It didn’t help either that Arizona was hitting just about everything in the first half and that the slew of live-ball turnovers led to easy points in transition. But if you want to win on the road in the Pac-12 — even in a down season — you can’t just hope your opponent has an off night.

Colorado did a make a run in the second half when Arizona fell into a scoring drought against a revamped, aggressive CU defense. But even then it was too little, too late and the comeback was short-circuited by more turnover issues.

Next up for the Buffs is an away game at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are dangerous and beat then-No. 1 Kansas at home, but they also just dropped a home game to Utah. The Buffs need to be energized, focused, and probably lucky to get their first Pac-12 win.