BERKELEY, Calif. — — Usually when Xavier Johnson has a big game, so do the Colorado Buffaloes.

On Saturday, Johnson had one of the biggest games of his career, and it kept the Buffs close all night long against California, before they finally fell, 66-65 in overtime at Haas Pavilion.

"He came out ready to play and when X makes shots and plays with energy it's a good thing," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "I didn't get him any (rest), and he didn't want to come out of the game, either."

Johnson scored 24 points, the second-highest total of his career, while hitting eight of 15 shots. He had 14 points in the first half alone, including all of CU's points in a 10-0 run early in the game.

"I really wanted this win, actually," he said. "This (would have been) a big win for us and our program, but we weren't able to get it."

The Buffs are now 4-2 when he scores at least 15 points.

Short bench

Boyle used just eight players Saturday, and one of those players — Eli Stalzer — didn't see the court at all in the second half. Boyle didn't go to his bench at all in overtime.

"I didn't use my bench in overtime and you look back and you second-guess yourself there," said Boyle, who credited Jaron Hopkins and Dustin Thomas for playing well off the bench Saturday.

Boyle said that while he didn't go to his bench as much as usual, he know the importance of those players in the postseason.


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"I have to, in the second half, probably use our bench a little bit better, especially as we get into this (Pac-12 Tournament)," he said. "Tonight it was about trying to win this game, whatever we had to do to win this game. Tournament play, we're going to need our bench to play well."

Defensive intensity

On Feb. 22, Arizona made 84.6 percent of its second-half shots against the Buffs. On March 1, Utah made 70.8 percent of its second-half shots. This week, against Stanford and Cal, the Buffs held the opposition below 45 percent shooting in four consecutive halves.

"They've taken it to heart," Boyle said of his emphasis on defense to his players. "Your players have to start taking the ownership and when they do, good things can happen. When they don't, it's kind of a roller coaster."

Boarding

For the most part, CU had a great rebounding game against the Bears, finishing with a 45-35 advantage. However, Boyle was disappointed that Cal got 10 offensive rebounds in the second half.

Three of those came during one possession in overtime. With CU leading 63-62 with about a minute to go, three different Bears missed shots, but they got all three rebounds, eventually leading to David Kravish hitting a pair of big free throws.

"They didn't score a basket in overtime," Boyle said. "Our defense was good enough. We just couldn't get the ball when it was up on the board. We got our stops, but we couldn't get the rebound on the stops. That's what ultimately cost us the game."

All seven of Cal's points in overtime came on free throws.

Notable

For the 42nd time under Boyle, the Buffs held an opponent below 40 percent shooting (Cal finished at 35.4 percent) and out-rebounded the opposition. The Buffs lost for just the third time when holding the advantage in those categories, falling to 39-3. ... Askia Booker snapped an 0-for-12 slump from 3-point range with a trey in the second half. ... Wesley Gordon attempted a season-high 10 shots. ... Josh Scott recorded his 13th double-double of the season, and his second in a row. ... CU tied its season-low with 14 free throw attempts. The Buffs fell to 1-7 when attempting 20 or fewer shots from the line. ... CU is 1-10 all-time in Berkeley.

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