LOS ANGELES - When point guard Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 12, the Colorado men's basketball team had to figure out to fill that void.

Initially, the Buffs put freshman Jaron Hopkins in the starting lineup, with sophomore Xavier Talton being the top guard off the bench.

Five games into that experience, the Buffs realized that wasn't working and switched the roles of Hopkins and Talton.

In the four games since, both guards have flourished.

On Sunday, Talton made his fourth consecutive start and had one of the best games of his young career. He tied his career high with 14 points, while also compiling seven rebounds and three assists in the Buffs' 83-74 win at Southern Cal.

Including the Feb. 1 game against Utah - when Hopkins started, but played just five minutes - Talton has averaged 10.0 points while connecting on 61.5 percent of his shots (16 of 26). He is 12-for-17 (70.6 percent) from 3-point range during that stretch.

"Everybody gets better once they start playing more minutes, and Talton is really starting to settle in really nice for our team," sophomore Xavier Johnson said. "He's hitting all of his shots and he's creating a lot for our team."

During the first four games that Hopkins started, Talton scored just 2.8 points per game and went 4-for-12 (33.3 percent) from the floor, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range.

"Not only my teammates, but coach (Tad) Boyle and the staff have also given me confidence," Talton said.


"They're leaving me in the game a couple of times, playing through a couple of mistakes. I think I'm getting more confident on the floor.

"The experience definitely helps, but confidence is a big thing in the game of basketball, and I think (starting) has helped me a lot."

The switch has been great for Hopkins, too. During his five starts, he averaged 3.6 points, made just 6 of 25 shots (24 percent) overall and went 0-for-11 from 3-point range. He also had 14 turnovers and just three assists in those games.

In the four games since, Hopkins has posted 7.0 points, connected on 40 percent of his shots and compiled just four turnovers while dishing seven assists. He also added a 10-rebound game in the mix.

"Little by little I'm getting my confidence back, so hopefully I can keep it going," he said.

Hopkins said that sitting on the bench in the early minutes of games has allowed him to get a better feel for the game before he takes the court.

"I get to see a couple of their tendencies and what their best player likes to do," said Hopkins, who often guards the opponents' top player. "It just gives me a chance to look at what they're doing offensively and get in there and try to defend as best as I can.

"It's really helping me out."

Hopkins had 10 points, four assists and three steals on Sunday.

Beaten on the boards

CU's two smallest starters - Talton and Askia Booker - combined for 15 rebounds on Sunday, yet the Buffs were still out-rebounded by USC, 40-34.

Forward Josh Scott added eight rebounds, but overall, CU had a tough time against USC's bigger players.

Omar Oraby, a 7-foot-2 center, had nine boards off the bench, and forward Byron Wesley had eight. USC had five different players record at least four rebounds.

The Buffs were out-rebounded in both games on the trip to Los Angeles, including a 37-27 disadvantage against UCLA on Thursday.

For the season, CU is 4-4 when being out-rebounded.


CU out-rebounded USC by 20, 43-23, when the teams met Jan. 18 in Boulder. ... CU is 6-3 all-time against USC, 2-2 on the road. ... Coming into the game, CU had allowed its last five opponents to hit 44.1 percent of its 3-pointers (52-of-118). USC, which ranks last in the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage, made just three of its 15 shots from beyond the arc. ... CU's Wesley Gordon came off the bench Sunday. He had started all 21 games he's played this year, but is still not 100 percent healthy after twisting his left ankle on Feb. 9. ... Freshman Tre'Shaun Fletcher went through pre-game warm-ups for the second straight game, but he's not ready to play yet. Fletcher injured his left knee on Jan. 12 at Washington and hasn't played since. ... USC's Pe'Shon Howard, who has started 23 games, was suspended for the game for violating team rules, Trojans' coach Andy Enfield said.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.