AUSTIN, Texas - Colorado coach Tad Boyle discusses Friday's loss to Illinois in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
COACH BOYLE: Well, obviously we're extremely disappointed in the result, but I thought our players in the second half showed extreme heart coming back from a 16 point halftime deficit to take the lead. We just didn't have enough of what it took in key possessions of the game, some offensive and some defensive to finish this thing off. Illinois made more plays down the stretch than we did. We weren't able to get to the free throw line like we normally do. It's a big part of our offense and when we aren't getting to the free throw line we have got to make some shots.
And we made enough in the second half to get back in the game and close the gap and to take the lead, but we couldn't -- then we have gone on scoring droughts all year, for those of you who haven't seen this team. But our defense was good enough in the second half and our heart was good enough. And we're disappointed, being one and done is not what we're interested in being in the NCAA tournament.
But that's the reality now, we have to live with that for another year and I told our team in the locker room that sabatino chen, our only senior, and Shane Harris-Tunks, who is going to graduate in May and move on, are the guys I feel most disappointed for.
Q. What was the key for them in limiting Spencer today?
COACH BOYLE: Well, Spencer got in foul trouble early. I thought that offensive foul charge, his fourth foul was a really critical juncture of the game. But our team responded. We made our run with Spencer out of the game. They did a good job on Spencer. They showed hard on those ball screens and they tried to get the ball out of his hands and Spencer made a couple of shots for us in the second half, but the thing that makes Spencer special is he has the ability to affect the game in a lot of different ways, not just scoring.
Four assists, four turnovers is not a normal line for Spencer. It's got to be more four assists, two turnovers, or six assists, you know, three turnovers. But he wasn't at his best tonight, foul trouble had something to do with that.
But I thought our team responded. When one of your best players has a subpar game and you're in it to the end, like we were, says a lot about this team.
But they tried to get the ball out of his hand as much as they could. I think that was their game plan.
Q. You mentioned this at the top, but what do you take away from a game like that? It's such a roller coaster. Does it hurt more to lose it that way?
COACH BOYLE: It always hurts, but, yeah, when you comeback -- we talk all the time and this team's done it all year, at times, but it's easy to come back, it's hard to come back and win. We have come back and won some games this year from deficits. Again, our scoring droughts are tough to deal with, and that's why we have to guard, we have to rebound.
We played well enough to win today, we just didn't play well enough down the stretch to win today. Illinois made the plays down the stretch. They made the shots, the two threes to cut into the deficit of two. They went up four and then we didn't score the last five minutes of the game, five, six minutes of the game until Xavier Johnson hit that long three at kind of garbage time.
We came back, we made shots to come back and get in the game. Played good enough defense, we held them to 13 percent field goal percentage in the second half. But we just couldn't make a shot when we had to make a shot. Whether it was in the lane, whether it was a three, and you know, in games like this you got to be able to make shots at some point to win it. And they made more shots than we did down the stretch.
Q. Expanding on those scoring droughts, kind of what leads to them? Are they just not getting good looks or they're just not falling?
COACH BOYLE: I think first half it was turnovers. We had three assists and eight turnovers in the first half. They had 15 points off our turnovers in the first half.
So that was the part in the second half. We got, again we made some shots and then, boom, all of a sudden we missed shots in the lane, we missed them at the rim, we missed open threes.
I've said it before, I'll say it again, as a coach, you just want to make sure your team gets good shots. There's not a lot you can do if they miss them. Whether they're layups or whatever, but if we're taking good shots, which I thought in the second half we were, you got to live with it. But if you're not making them, it puts a lot of pressure on the other end of the floor. The first half, the turnovers killed us. We don't get a shot then and it's hard to miss or make them.
Q. What are you going to work on in the off season to try to get this team to take the next step?
COACH BOYLE: I just told them, I said, No. 1, I'm proud of what they have done this year. With a young group that we had, they have helped put Colorado basketball on the map.
Now we have got a lot of work that we need to do in terms of improvement and gaining some national respect. And it's incumbent on every person in our basketball program, whether it's the head coach, assistant coaches, or players, to give everything they have got in this off season. We'll take some time, get our batteries recharged. But just because we're going to be a year older next year doesn't mean we're going to be a year better. Our players need to understand that. Our freshmen need to understand that this is where you get better, in the off season, in the weight room, working on the deficiencies that are in your game, whether you're a freshman, whether you're a sophomore, or whether you're a junior.
Again the people I feel sorry for are our seniors, that guys that are graduating in May and won't be with us next year. And it's our job to make them proud. But I'm proud of what Colorado is in the process of becoming. We have still got plenty of room for improvement and this isn't our last time here, I promise you that.
We're going to be back. But we can't take it for granted that just because we're going to be a year older next year and a year more experienced that we're going to be a year better. And that's our job as coaches in the off season to make sure our guys understand that.
Q. Talk a little bit about the play of Ski Booker in the second half when the shots weren't falling and a guy who hasn't really been able to hit many shots recently really brought you back.
COACH BOYLE: He made some shots. He made one and then we ran a play for him, he made another one. And then again, consistency's been a problem for this team and certainly for Ski, when it comes to shooting the basketball all year long.
But those were big shots. They kind of got our team some life, and unfortunately there just weren't enough of them. And we missed too many wide open looks tonight. But I was proud of Ski, he's not afraid to take shots. That much I'll give him credit for. And he made some big ones in the second half to kind of get our team sparked.
But there's some things that we didn't do defensively when we had to down the stretch and it cost us the game.
Q. 21 wins this season, do you have a prediction for next season? Another 20 win season?
COACH BOYLE: I'm smarter than that, but thank you. We're going to be better next year, I think, because of the work ethic. Josh was here, Ski was here. The one thing we tried to do, is we tried to recruit basketball players at the University of Colorado that number one, love the game and number two, want to be great. And I know both these kids do. We have got other guys in that locker room that do.
So as long as they do what we think they're capable of doing in the off season and put that work in, we will be better. We have got games still to schedule, so I don't even know our schedule for next year, so I'm not going to start to try to talk about wins. We just got to try to finish that schedule out. It's getting harder to get teams to come to Boulder, Colorado, I can tell you that.
But at some point somebody's, we're going to have to play somebody at some point. So as a coaching staff, as we go into the next week or two and into the next month or two, we're going to have to really turn our attention to our schedule and try to get the best one we can for next year's team.
Q. What was the message at halftime down 16?
COACH BOYLE: The message at halftime down 16 was, guys, we're going to get back into this game one possession at a time. We have -- we cannot be happy with trading baskets for them or with them. And we have to get stops. And try to get -- we're having trouble scoring the ball, try to get some baskets in transition. The only way you do that is by getting stops. They're shooting a lot of threes, those threes aren't going to go in all game. If they are, we're going to shake their hands. They didn't go in all game, they missed a lot of threes in the second half, we got long rebounds, we weren't able to convert as many in transition as we wanted to.
But the message was, one possession at a time, we don't have a 16 point play in our play book, we're not going to get back in this thing all at once. We got to do it one possession at a time on offense and on defense. And our guys took that to heart. They have been in that position before.
So I'll finish with saying, Colorado basketball, the future of it is in great shape. We got a lot of good young players in our program. We got a lot of good young players coming into our program, and we're going to be back here. I don't know when, but we will be back.