CU men's hoops preview
SATURDAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (15-5, 4-3 Pac-12) visit the Arizona State Sun Devils (14-5, 3-3) in a 5 p.m. MDT game at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
Radio — KOA (850 AM), with Mark Johnson on play-by-play and Scott Wilke providing color commentary. TV — Pac-12 Network.
STORYLINES: CU is looking to rebound from a 69-57 loss at No. 1 Arizona on Thursday. Sophomore Xavier Johnson had a season-high 21 points in the loss. ... CU is 1-3 in its past four games. ... In three Pac-12 road games this season, the Buffs are 1-2 and needed overtime to beat Washington State. ... ASU rallied from a four-point halftime deficit to defeat Utah, 79-75, on Thursday at home. Four Sun Devils scored in double figures, led by Jahii Carson's 23 points. ... CU junior Askia Booker needs just six points to become the 31st player in school history with 1,000 points for his career. ... Arizona State is 10-1 at home this season. Colorado is 3-4 away from Boulder and 1-4 when traveling out of state. ... ASU center Jordan Bachynski leads the Pac-12 with 10 double-doubles. CU's Josh Scott is just behind him, with nine. ... As a team, CU has nailed 32 of 36 free throws (88.9 percent) during the past two games. ... CU attempted at least 24 free throws in 13 of its first 16 games. The Buffs have averaged just 18.8 attempts the past four games, with no more than 22 in any of those. They had a season-low 14 attempts on Thursday against Arizona.
KEY STAT: ASU came into the week third in the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage defense, allowing just 40.0 percent shooting. CU is 1-3 this season when shooting under 40 percent. Holding Utah to 38.7 percent in the second half Thursday keyed the Sun Devils' win.
COACHES: Tad Boyle is 84-43 in his fourth season at CU and 140-109 for his career. Herb Sendek is 134-114 in his eighth season at ASU and 388-272 for his career.
Colorado — G Jaron Hopkins, 6-5, Fr. (5.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg); G Askia Booker, 6-2, Jr. (13.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.4 apg); F Wesley Gordon, 6-9, Fr. (6.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.7 bpg); F Xavier Johnson, 6-7, So. (10.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg); F Josh Scott, 6-10, So. (14.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg). Arizona State — G Jahii Carson, 5-10, So. (18.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.6 apg); G Jermaine Marshall, 6-4, Sr. (15.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg); F Eric Jacobsen, 6-10, So. (2.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg); F Shaquielle McKissic, 6-5, Sr. (8.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.4 spg); C Jordan Bachynski, 7-2, Sr. (12.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 4.5 bpg).
SERIES: The all-time series is tied 4-4, but ASU lead 3-1 in Tempe. The Sun Devils swept both meetings with the Buffs last year.
UP NEXT: CU will host Utah on Feb. 1 at Noon.
TUCSON, Ariz. — — Mentally, the Colorado men's basketball team has gotten over the shock.
It's been nearly two weeks since star point guard Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a season-ending knee injury, and the Buffaloes no longer have that "what do we do now" look in their eyes.
Physically, it's still a work in progress. But, as Thursday's 69-57 loss to No. 1 Arizona showed, the Buffs are improving in the post-Dinwiddie portion of the season.
"There's definitely progress," sophomore Josh Scott said. "We're not going to be perfect. It's going to take some time, but we're working towards that."
On Saturday night, the Buffs (15-5, 4-3 Pac-12) will look to take another step forward when they visit Arizona State (14-5, 3-3). It'll be their fourth full game since Dinwiddie's injury on Jan. 12.
Counting the game in which Dinwiddie got hurt - he was injured with 2 minutes, 52 seconds to play in the first half at Washington - the Buffs have played three-and-a-half games without Dinwiddie, and they are 1-3. Not exactly the record the Buffs want, but they do have plenty of positives to point toward from those games.
CU has seen junior guard Askia Booker emerge as a leader. He was clearly affected mentally when he saw his friend go down with an injury, and he played poorly at Washington.
In the three games without Dinwiddie, though, Booker has been very good. Even on Thursday night, Booker did what he could to get the Buffs a win. His shots didn't fall (he was 4-for-13 with 11 points), but he remained aggressive, dished out four of the team's six assists and had just two turnovers in 34 minutes.
"Ski's the one who is affected probably the most from (Dinwiddie's injury)," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "He's got to understand, we need him to score, but we also need him to make plays for his teammates, as well. He's trying to do that and that's all I can ask."
Overall, in the past three games, Booker has hit 48 percent of his shots, scored 15.0 points per game and produced 12 assists and only eight turnovers. He has only four turnovers in the past five halves combined.
In addition to Booker, Scott has become even more of a force than he was early in the season. Thursday was his ninth double-double, and he did it despite being the focus of the Arizona defense. Scott has averaged 18.0 points and 9.0 rebounds the past three games.
The Buffs also showed signs of progress on Thursday by not folding against the Wildcats. Despite a rough start, the Buffs came together and played well the final 34 minutes.
CU's strong finish to Thursday's game was sparked by Xavier Johnson, who could become a key player for the Buffs down the stretch.
The Buffs have had their struggles without Dinwiddie, but perhaps their biggest need going forward is a consistent third scorer. Before Dinwiddie got hurt, the Buffs could count on solid offensive production from Dinwiddie, Scott and Booker every night.
Booker and Scott have continued to score, but they got almost no help against UCLA, and only one other player - Johnson - has stepped up offensively in the last three games.
Johnson had 10 points against USC a week ago, and then scored a season-high 21 against Arizona. He's 11-for-21 from the floor, including 5-for-6 from 3-point range in those two games.
"For us to be good, our margin for error is less, because we're going to need our better players to play well," Boyle said. "There's a little bit more onus on those three guys - Xavier Johnson, Ski and Josh - because they're returning (from last year). The rest of the guys are freshmen and sophomores who didn't play a lot."
There have been plenty of positives to CU's game the past week. If Johnson can add to that by continuing to be a weapon on offense, the wins could start coming soon - perhaps even on Saturday.
"We just have to play hard, keep our heads up and stick together as a team," Johnson said. "We're getting closer and closer."