Buffs basketball report
Current record: 11-11, 4-6 Pac-12
Last game: 79-51 loss at home against Utah on Saturday
Next game: Thursday vs. California (15-9, 5-6), 7 p.m., Fox Sports 1.
Injury report: G Askia Booker (hips) missed Saturday's game, but said he will play Thursday against the Golden Bears. G Jaron Hopkins (illness) missed practice on Tuesday, but should be able to play Thursday.
Buff bits: CU has lost two in a row. ... The Buffs are 9-3 at home, matching the most home losses in Tad Boyle's five seasons as coach (also in 2012-13). ... Cal is 4-2 on the road. ... After a 1-6 start (including six losses in a row) to Pac-12 play, Cal has won four in a row. ... CU has never lost back-to-back home games under Boyle's direction.
Sitting on the bench in his street clothes, Askia Booker looked at the scoreboard on Saturday night.
Then, he looked at the hanging heads of his Colorado men's basketball teammates. And, then he looked at the half-empty Coors Events Center.
"To see the guys' heads down and see the people walk out of here, that's never happened in my life in this gym," said Booker, who missed the game, a 79-51 loss to Utah, with a pair of hip pointers. "In the four years I've been here, that's never happened. (The fans) have always had confidence in us to come back or make a run, or put on a show at least for them to have something to talk about. We didn't get it done. We didn't give them a run; we didn't give them anything."
The pain in Booker's hips was bad enough to keep him from practicing and playing last week. But, after watching what happened on Saturday night, CU's leading scorer said he will play Thursday night when the Buffaloes (11-11, 4-6 Pac-12) host California (15-9, 5-6).
"I know I can run, I can jump, I can do everything," said Booker, who leads the team with 17.6 points and 3.3 assists per game. "It's the fact that your hip gets hit so much in basketball and when it gets hit, it's excruciating. But, excruciating turns into mild when you feel what I feel (mentally)."
Booker, who hadn't missed a game in more than three years, returned to practice on Tuesday and afterward said he felt "fine."
"I'm still playing through some injuries and pain, but I don't really care now," he said. "My team needs me. They need me to perform and they need me on the court, so that's what I'm going to do."
Booker injured his right hip against Washington State on Jan. 24, but it was a collision on Jan. 29 with USC's Nikola Jovanovic — a hit that could have been ruled a flagrant foul — that really hurt. Booker landed hard on his left hip on that play. He played in pain the rest of the game (scoring 19 of his career-high 43 points after that hit), and again two days later at UCLA.
After the UCLA game, the Buffs took a couple of days off before preparing to face Utah, and Booker's hips started to hurt more.
"Deep down inside at the USC game I knew that something was wrong instantly," Booker said. "The first or second day, the pain is not so bad. You can work through it because you're still fresh and you've been running on it already.
"Once I sat out for a while, things clogged up it seemed like, and blood rushed to that spot and it got swollen and it got stiff."
Booker tried ice, hot tub and massage treatments, but couldn't get the pain to go away last week, so he skipped the game.
CU has had some lackluster games even with Booker in the lineup. But, without him, the Buffs were a mess against the Utes. They made just 29.8 percent of their shots, managed only five assists (one of those from a perimeter player) and never looked comfortable running their offense.
"Because he is a commanding presence on the floor offensively, we miss him when he's not out there," Boyle said. "But, it can't be about just one guy that you rely on to get your shots.
"We've got to learn how to make pays for each other when Ski is not in the game."
Booker agrees, but he also believes in his ability to help the Buffs succeed down the stretch run of the season.
"These guys can win games without me. I believe that," Booker said. "They have enough talent. But, they hadn't been through a game yet without me. That's when you need guys to step up and it didn't happen that night.
"I don't know if I'm the solution, but I believe I can really help."
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.