It was a miserable showing, and one Colorado will regret more than the other early-season bad losses that are mounting far too quickly.
Yet the Buffaloes have no time to wallow in that misery.
CU’s latest setback delivered a cruel sting, as a Buffs squad that led by 15 points with 14 minutes remaining was unable to finish the job in the Pac-12 Conference opener at home on Thursday night, dropping a 60-59, last-minute decision against Arizona State.
The Buffs (4-4) have been unable to post consecutive victories yet this season, despite picking up two of those wins against ranked foes. After Thursday’s setback, as frustrating as it was, the Buffs already understood they had little time to feel sorry for themselves as Pac-12 Conference play continues on Sunday in a venue that has been unkind to CU at Washington (1 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).
“It’s a weird thing to describe how to do these things,” CU guard Jalen Gabbidon said. “The game’s over. We have probably the four or five hours until we go to sleep to think about it, then we wake up and we have scouting report in the morning for the next game. If you sit on this game, it’s only going to carry over into the next game. We have to take the lesson we’ve learned, watch film and move on. Because we have another challenge up at Washington. I’ve never played there, but I know it’s a hard place to play. And we have to be ready for that challenge.
“It’s funny how sports is like that. You’ve got another one in three days. You’ve got to forget it.”
On a night in which CU got its 3-point shot on track (10-for-26), played mostly sound defense (ASU went 5-for-26 on 3-pointers), and dominated the glass (47-34), the Buffs nevertheless were unable to get out of their own way down the stretch. After Gabbidon, who had been struggling at the free throw line, gave the Buffs a 59-57 lead with three free throws with 2:03 to go, the Buffs twice recorded defensive stops only to commit the final two of their season-high 20 turnovers.
After the last of those turnovers, ASU’s Desmond Cambridge Jr. knocked down a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left, lifting the Sun Devils to a win in a game they hadn’t led since the first five minutes.
“Obviously, myself especially, I’m going to think about this a lot for sure, because we had this one and we let it go,” said CU point guard KJ Simpson, who finished with five turnovers and missed the front end of two 1-and-1 free throws in the final three minutes. “This is one of those things where, as hard as it is, you have to have a mindset of all right, just move on to the next one. (Games) are just days apart, so you can’t just dwell on a loss.”
The rollercoaster opening weeks of the season already has left CU little margin for error in regard to any potential run at an NCAA Tournament berth. Following Thursday’s loss head coach Tad Boyle recounted a recurring theme in questioning his team’s collective toughness. Given the Buffs allowed a winnable game at home to get away, the toughness factor will remain in the spotlight as CU looks to make amends by getting a road win in an arena where it has lost six consecutive games.
“At the root of it all is toughness,” Boyle said. “The question now becomes, can we change that? Can I change it as the coach? Can Steve Englehart, our strength and conditioning coach, change it? Can our players change it? The rest of this season will be determined by that answer.”
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