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Adjusting to inevitable pressure key for turnover-prone CU Buffs men's basketball

Jan. 8—The word is out on how to harass Colorado's offense.

Head coach Tad Boyle knows his team has to adjust accordingly.

Saying the Buffaloes' attack ground to a halt certainly describes last week's 47-point loss at Arizona. Yet that wasn't necessarily the case during Saturday's loss at Arizona State, as the Buffs shot a solid .479 but couldn't overcome 10 first-half turnovers.

That has been a familiar story with the Buffs, whose Pac-12-worst turnover average climbed to 14.2 per game after the two losses in Arizona. It has made the scouting report easy to break down for opponents. Fluster the Buffs enough, and they'll turn the ball over.

In nonconference play, CU often (but not always) could get away with such miscues. But it's not a sustainable habit in league play, particularly on the road, as the Buffs complete a three-game road trip at California on Wednesday (9 p.m., ESPNU).

"The problem is, teams are pressuring us now," Boyle said. "We got pressured a few times (at ASU). Florida State pressured us and we didn't handle it very well. The scouting report now on Colorado is, when you pressure them, they will turn it over. The new offense we're running, the five-out, is designed to handle pressure. Back-cut it, and have spacing to drive."

CU's assist rate has dipped slightly in league play, which is typical, but the higher-quality competition tells only part of the story. The Buffs' offense operated just fine against their toughest foes in nonconference play, shooting .545 with 83 points in a loss at Colorado State before scoring 90 points with 28 assists and a .587 mark in a win against then-No. 15 Miami.

Certainly the manpower issues have helped clog what has been a smooth operation offensively for much of the season. The Buffs have played the last seven games shorthanded as freshman starter Cody Williams has recovered from a wrist injury, and CU has played that last four of those down a second key rotation play in absences from Tristan da Silva (three games before returning against ASU) and Julian Hammond III.

Williams and Hammond remain in day-to-day limbo heading into the final Pac-12 visit to Berkeley, but the Buffs nonetheless should have an opportunity to get the offense on track, provided they can take care of the ball. The Golden Bears, coming off their first win at UCLA in 14 years, rank last in the Pac-12 in defensive field goal percentage (.453), defensive 3-point percentage (.370), and points allowed (77.7). Cal forces 11.1 turnovers per game, the third-fewest in the conference.

"I thought the second half (at ASU) we did a great job of executing," Boyle said. "Our sets and our half-court offense. The first half, again, 20 points off turnovers in the first half, that's the ball game. Our offense is fine, but we have to trust it a little bit more. Especially in environments where the crowd gets into it. We've got some really talented players on this team that feel like they can make plays at any given time. And we want them to make plays. But we want them to make plays out of the offensive flow. We've got some areas where we can get better at that."