The University of Colorado men’s basketball program got a much-needed home win Sunday night against the University of Washington Huskies. With a final score of 91-65, this game was “probably as complete a performance by our team as we’ve had in a long time,” head coach Tad Boyle said. The Buffaloes are now 18-6 on the season and 7-4 in the Pac-12, where they are ranked fourth.
With 18 assists, four steals and 44 rebounds on Colorado’s game totals list, the numbers proved Boyle right. The Buffaloes’ offensive effort seared from the start, as sophomores Xavier Talton and Xavier Johnson put seven points on the scoreboard within the first two minutes of play. The combination of Talton’s initial three-point shot and Johnson’s back-to-back dunks fueled the energy on the court and in the stands.
Junior guard Askia Booker contributed 16 of the Buffs’ 48 first-half points and finished the game with 20. He was not alone, as Johnson recorded a career-high 27 points and sophomore forward Josh Scott put up 21 of his own.
The trio’s offensive presence, adding up to a total 68 points, has been crucial to team chemistry ever since junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a season-ending ACL injury on Jan. 12. Ironically, this injury took place against Washington.
“The team needed leadership and a new scorer,” Johnson said about Dinwiddie’s absence. “So me, Josh and Askia pretty much just stepped up.”
Boyle agreed that the Buffs are settling confidently into a life without Dinwiddie.
“We’ve moved on,” he said. “I think Askia Booker has really taken on that mentality of facilitator.”
Josh Scott, referencing the difference between tonight’s effort and that of Colorado’s first Washington matchup, which the Buffs lost, said he admires his team’s growth in defensive intensity.
“We learned from our mistakes,” Scott said. “This time we shut down their main scorers.”
Usually the Huskies rely on senior guard C.J. Wilcox for the most points on the board. But Sunday, Wilcox was held to only eight, guarded by Johnson and freshman Jaron Hopkins. Hopkins won head-to-head battles with Wilcox on Colorado’s end of the floor as well, recording the first dunk of his career over Wilcox’s head with just under nine minutes remaining in the ball game.
“The thing I’m most proud of with Xavier Johnson is his ability to take on a defensive challenge,” Boyle said at the post-game press conference. “[Hopkins] took on a defensive challenge tonight with Wilcox. He’s going to be a good player for us.”
Wilcox was not the only Husky tamed on the court. Overall, Colorado held Washington to a field goal percentage of 32.3 percent, and their highest scorer, freshman Nigel Williams-Goss, contributed only 15 points.
Despite a scoreless two minutes in the middle of the second half, Colorado continued to stretch their 15-point halftime lead. The largest edge of the game came with three minutes remaining, when the Buffs led the Huskies by as many as 30 points.
“We had good offensive positions that ended in baskets rather than empty possessions,” Boyle said. “When you do that down the stretch, it has a tendency to break their back, and I think we did that tonight.”
Men’s basketball faces a tough road schedule in the next few weeks, beginning with a matchup against the UCLA Bruins Thursday night. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2, and tip-off is at 7 p.m. MST.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Jordyn Siemens at firstname.lastname@example.org.