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Men's basketball: Youthful mistakes by veteran rotation frustrating CU Buffs

Jan. 16—With Cody Williams, Colorado coach Tad Boyle understands the occasional defensive lapse.

Despite the world of promise and potential, Williams remains a 19-year old freshman. And one who, thanks to an injury, still has played only nine collegiate basketball games.

The remainder of CU's rotation, however, is comprised of veterans who have logged a significant amount of court time for the Buffaloes. The half-to-half shortcomings frequently displayed by the Buffs have been a season-long habit, yet it's one more typical of younger rotations. Nonetheless, fixing those defensive inconsistencies remains priority No. 1 as CU zeroes in on a crucial Pac-12 Conference showdown on Thursday night against Oregon at the CU Events Center (8:30 p.m., FS1).

"It's just having the bigger goals in mind," CU senior forward Tristan da Silva said. "Obviously, sometimes in all of basketball people get frustrated at times on offense, and we can't let that affect the defense. Everybody knows how much our defense influences the outcome of a game.

"We've just got to keep in mind we're working towards a common goal. We've got the same goal in mind, which is a Pac-12 championship and making it to the tournament. Having that in the back of our mind, and knowing that we should be trusting each other and relying on each other, should make us more confident."

Williams was a big reason why CU's defense was so disruptive for roughly the first 18 minutes in a loss last week at California, where the Buffs held the Golden Bears to a a.235 mark in the first half before letting the hosts break loose for a .581 mark after the break as Cal stunned the Buffs with a second-half rally.

CU's defensive slump continued during the first half against USC on Saturday, as the Trojans spent much of the opening frame shooting above .500 before going into the break with a .469 mark. CU held USC to a 7-for-29 effort (.241) in the second half, as it was the Buffs' turn to rally for a win.

That half-to-half disparity has been particularly frustrating for Boyle, given his team's experience.

Da Silva has played in 104 games at CU, and if he stays healthy the rest of the way he likely will break into the top 20 in program history in games played. Starting guard KJ Simpson has made 78 appearances with 46 starts, while Julian Hammond III has played in 79 games and had played in 75 in a row before returning from a two-game injury absence against USC.

With the top seven players in CU's rotation set to take the floor in consecutive games for the first time since early December, there remains enough time to fix the half-to-half rollercoaster that has marked the entire season. Yet with the Buffs already through 30% mark of the league slate, the margin for error is growing thin.

"I think our players, they don't understand how hard they have to play. I just don't think they do," Boyle said. "You have to play hard. Because every team is going to come in here with a game plan. Effort makes up for a lot of things defensively. Effort makes up for a lot of mistakes. But if you're not playing with great effort, great energy, your mistakes are going to be magnified.

"Absolutely, it's been surprising. I hate to say this, but the better offensive player you are, sometimes the worse defensive player you are. Not always. There's rare occasions. But a lot of guys say, 'Ah, I'll just outscore you.' That's a recipe for getting beat."