CU men's hoops preview

TODAY: The No. 21 Colorado Buffaloes (14-4, 3-2 Pac-12) host the Southern Cal Trojans (9-8, 0-4) in a noon game at Coors Events Center in Boulder.

BROADCAST:

Radio -- KOA (850 AM), with Mark Johnson on play-by-play and Scott Wilke providing color commentary. TV - Fox Sports 1, with Aaron Goldsmith and Brevin Knight on the call.

STORYLINES: CU is looking to snap its first two-game losing streak of the season. ... CU has not lost three in a row since joining the Pac-12. Its last skid of at least three games was a four-game losing streak from Jan. 18-29, 2011. ... The Buffs suffered their first home loss of the season on Thursday, 69-56 against No. 25 UCLA. CU is 11-1 at home this season. ... USC is 1-4 on the road this year, including an 84-66 loss at Utah on Thursday. ... The Trojans are the only Pac-12 team without a conference win so far. The average margin of defeat is 22.8 points in their four Pac-12 games, with all of them coming by at least 18 points. ... CU junior guard Askia Booker went 2-for-21 from the field during the two-game swing to Washington, but rebounded with a 7-for-11 performance against UCLA.


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He had 21 points in that game. ... USC's Byron Wesley averaged 21.0 points during a five-game stretch before being held to eight against Utah. ... CU is 12-1 against unranked opponents, the only loss coming Sunday at Washington. USC has lost its only game against a ranked opponent, 73-53 at No. 1 Arizona on Sunday.

KEY STAT: USC turns the ball over more than any other team in the Pac-12, averaging 14.5 per game. The Trojans had 17 turnovers on Thursday, resulting in 27 Utah points. CU also had 17 turnovers on Thursday, leading to 20 UCLA points. The team that takes care of the ball best could wind up on top.

COACHES: Tad Boyle is 83-42 in his fourth season at CU and 139-108 for his career. Andy Enfield is 9-8 in his first season at USC and 50-36 for his career.

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Colorado -- G Jaron Hopkins, 6-5, Fr. (5.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg); G Askia Booker, 6-2, Jr. (13.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.1 apg); F Wesley Gordon, 6-9, Fr. (6.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg); F Xavier Johnson, 6-7, So. (9.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F Josh Scott, 6-10, So. (13.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg). USC - G Byron Wesley, 6-5, Jr. (16.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.4 apg); G Pe'Shon Howard, 6-3, Sr. (10.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.0 apg); G Julian Jacobs, 6-3, Fr. (7.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.4 apg); F Nikola Jovanovic, 6-10, Fr. (8.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg); C Omar Oraby, 7-2, Sr. (8.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.7 bpg).

SERIES: CU leads the series 4-3, including 3-0 in Boulder. The Buffs are 2-0 against the Trojans since joining the Pac-12, including a 66-60 win in Boulder on Jan. 10, 2013.

UP NEXT: CU will visit No. 1-ranked Arizona on Thursday in Tucson, Ariz.

Since losing star point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to a season-ending knee injury on Sunday, the Colorado men's basketball team has not looked good.

Dinwiddie was injured during the first half of a 71-54 loss at Washington on Sunday. Without him, the No. 21 Buffaloes were outscored 45-25 in the second half.

Then, on Thursday, they struggled offensively in a 69-56 loss to UCLA.

Those were the only two games this season that CU (14-4, 3-2 Pac-12) has been held below 60 points. Those were the two largest margins of defeat by the Buffs this year. It's the first time all season they've lost two in a row. And, Thursday's loss ended CU's hopes of going undefeated at home, as they fell to 11-1 at the Coors Events Center.

On Saturday, the Buffaloes will host Southern Cal (9-8, 0-4), and they'll do so with some people wondering whether the Buffaloes can recover to even reach the NCAA Tournament this year, let alone get the top-four seed they seemed destined for before Dinwiddie's injury.

The Buffaloes, however, don't share those feelings.

"Do not count this team out," head coach Tad Boyle said. "Do not count us out."

In addition to Dinwiddie, the Buffs lost freshmen reserve Tre'Shaun Fletcher to a knee injury on Sunday. Fletcher will miss six to eight weeks.

All of a sudden, the Buffs have had to learn to play without two of their key players. It's almost like the start of the year all over again.

"One thing this week taught me is that you never know when adversity is going to hit," sophomore center Josh Scott said. "None of us expected this. I've said before, it's time for people to step up."

CU didn't have enough players step up on Thursday, but even without Dinwiddie and Fletcher, the Buffs did some good things against a very talented UCLA squad.

They held the Bruins to 69 points; only Duke has held them to fewer points this season. The Bruins came into the game third in the nation in field-goal percentage, at 51.4 percent, yet the Buffs' defense held them to 39.4 percent - just the second time this season the Bruins failed to hit at least 40 percent.

Junior guard Askia Booker came through with a clutch performance on offense, nailing seven of his 11 shots, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range, and scoring 21 points. His five 3s were a career high, and it was just the fourth 20-point game of his career.

Scott was impressive, too, as he compiled 19 points and nine rebounds.

The rest of the Buffs struggled offensively, but nobody faulted the effort and energy of the team Thursday night.

CU's disappointment stemmed from the fact that the team knew it could have played better and won the game.

"The things we didn't do, we're capable of doing," Boyle said. "We have guys that are capable of playing better than they played tonight. They know that and I want them to know that I believe in them."

Boyle used Pac-12 rival California as an example. The Golden Bears (13-4, 4-0) have dealt with some injuries this year, but they've won five in a row on the strength of their overall talent.

"They don't have a star on that team; they've got a bunch of good players," Boyle said. "We've got a bunch of good players. We've just got to play like it."

That starts on Saturday against USC.

"We can't be sorry for ourselves," Booker said. "We just have to go out there and hoop and if we don't do that, we're going to be in trouble."

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/brianhowell33.