For the past three weeks, the Colorado men's basketball team has been looking for players to step up offensively.
On Saturday, sophomore Xavier Talton did just that.
Talton came off the bench to score a career-high 14 points in helping the Buffs to a 79-75 overtime against Utah. He became the first non-starter to score in double-digits for the Buffs in a month, since Jaron Hopkins had 13 points against Oregon State on Jan. 2.
"I think everybody just found me tonight and I was feeling more confident," said Talton, who had scored 14 points in the previous six games combined. "Guys were finding me. They were setting screens for me and I just had to knock down the open shot."
Since Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 12, Hopkins has been in the starting lineup for the Buffs. He has struggled, however, and had his toughest game Saturday. He drew two early fouls and was benched for the entire second half and overtime. Hopkins finished with no points and three turnovers in five minutes of action.
Talton's performance may have earned him a starting spot, but he said after the game, "We'll let coach decide that. I'm just going to come in and keep working hard. That's all I can do."
Head coach Tad Boyle said that regardless of who starts, he needs the trio of Talton, Hopkins and Eli Stalzer to "give us good, solid minutes, and consistency." Stalzer had four points and a key steal and layup during the second half. He played a career-high 22 minutes.
"We'll talk about (who starts) as a staff," Boyle said. "If we do (make a change), it's not like I'm going to stop playing Jaron.
"It's hard on Jaron because he's a freshman and he's been put in a situation (of replacing Dinwiddie) that's really difficult. I thought Eli and (Talton) stepped up tonight. Next game, it might be Jaron and Eli."
To foul or not to foul
Leading by three in the closing seconds of regulation, Boyle elected not to put the Utes on the line for two free throws. Instead, the Buffs took their chances on defense and Utah's Brandon Taylor hit a game-tying 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.
"I'm a get-a-stop type of guy," Boyle said. "That's just how I am. People can disagree with it all they want; it's just how I'm wired. I trust our defense. I have confidence in our defense."
This is the second time this season that CU has been in that situation and the second time they've been burned. Washington State's Que Johnson hit a game-tying 3 in the closing seconds on Jan. 8.
Boyle said the results of those two situations wouldn't cause him to change his philosophy. In both cases, CU won in overtime.
Talton wasn't the only Xavier to come through for the Buffs. Sophomore Xavier Johnson recorded his second double-double of the season — and fourth of his career, with an 11-point, 10-rebound performance.
"The guy I'm probably most proud of tonight is Xavier Johnson," Boyle said. "He's a guy I challenged. Coming into the arena today, I was thinking, 'If X-Johnson doesn't play good today, it may not be pretty, because he doesn't like sitting on the bench. When he gives you the kind of effort that he gave today on both ends of the floor and rebounding the basketball, holy cow is he good."
Johnson has averaged 13.5 points over the last four games. He has scored in double digits four games in a row — the first time he's done that as a Buff.
CU's Askia Booker had a career-high seven assists and came within one of his career high in rebounds, finishing with eight. ... Booker moved into 28th place on CU's career scoring list, with 1,022 points. He passed Andre Roberson (1,012) and Chauncey Billups (1,020) on Saturday. ... CU had five players score in double figures for the third time this season, and for the first time since Dec. 28 against Georgia. ... Since the two schools joined the Pac-12, CU is 5-1 against the Utes. ... Utah is 0-6 in games decided by four points or less. ... The Utes are 1-22 all-time in Pac-12 road games, and 2-28 in all road games during the past three seasons.