TUCSON, Ariz. — — It's been a roller-coaster season offensively for Colorado sophomore Xavier Johnson.
On Thursday night, though, he showed how good he can be when he's motivated.
Johnson scored a season-high 21 points, nailing seven of his 12 shots, in the Buffs' 69-57 loss to No. 1 Arizona.
"I don't like Arizona and they don't like me," Johnson said. "I need to do that every game, but Arizona just sparks my engine. I grew up with pretty much all of them. Half of them went to my school, half of them went to my rival schools. We're all friends and the competitiveness I have brings out the fire in me."
This was Johnson's fourth career game against the Wildcats and he's scored in double figures all four times. He's averaging 16.0 points in his career against Arizona.
Considering the inconsistency in Johnson's game so far this year, though, CU head coach Tad Boyle didn't like hearing about Johnson's comments.
"To me, that's a negative; that's not a positive," Boyle said of the comments. "I'm glad he played well. He shot the ball well, but it doesn't matter if it's Arizona (or any other team). You've got to be ready to go."
Johnson came in averaging 9.6 points per game, and had just 20 points in the previous three games combined.
After his impressive performance Thursday, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range, Johnson was asked if CU can expect that out of him the rest of the year.
"That's the plan," he said. "Yeah, I think so. I came out with a strong performance tonight, and hopefully that'll help guide me through the rest of my career."
Johnson finished one point shy of his career high. He had 22 against Oregon last season.
Player of the year
So far this year, CU has played against some of college basketball's biggest stars, including Kansas' Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart. But, Arizona's Nick Johnson caught Boyle's attention.
"Nick Johnson, he's a stud," Boyle said. "He's got my vote for player of the year at this point of the season. There's a lot more basketball to be played, but he's a terrific player."
Johnson had 18 points and three assists while playing stellar defense Thursday.
CU fell to 0-16 all-time against the No. 1 team in the country. ... The Buffs are now 3-4 against Arizona since joining the Pac-12. ... Arizona star freshman Aaron Gordon was 5-for-5 on dunk attempts Thursday, and 1-for-7 on his other shots. He had 12 points on the night.