Wes Gordon wasn't immediately alarmed when a battle for a rebound resulted in a right thumb that bent far too sideways for comfort.
Yet when the pain didn't subside, and a baseline shot moments later ended in an airball, Gordon realized something significant was amiss.
Gordon's sprained thumb caused the end of a recent hot streak in Sunday night's win against Oregon, but backup forward Tory Miller more than picked up the slack with one of his best games of the season. The injury to his shooting hand is not expected to sideline Gordon on Wednesday when Colorado visits Washington, but he very well could be limited offensively, which might necessitate another solid outing from Miller.
"I've done it before, but not to this degree. It kind of surprised me," Gordon said of the injury. "Mainly shooting (is the problem), but hopefully it will get to the point on Wednesday where it doesn't hurt when the ball hits it."
Gordon had put together four consecutive games with at least nine rebounds before the thumb injury limited him to two points and two rebounds in 17 minutes against the Ducks. However, what could have been a huge setback for the Buffs turned into a non-issue thanks to Miller's inspired play.
Miller was a key component of the outstanding 45-point night put together by CU's reserves, contributing 12 points and seven rebounds while going 4-for-6 from the field and the free throw line. Miller's point total equaled what he had produced in his previous five games combined.
"I just went out there and played without thinking," said Miller, who is averaging 5.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. "I think I think too much at times, and last night I went out there and played more free. In practice I've been taking the same approach. I've just got to transfer that practice play to the games."
Miller's absence from the Jan. 3 game at Stanford due to a head injury exposed CU's thin depth up front, as head coach Tad Boyle opted to give extended minutes to Gordon and Josh Scott. With Gordon's effectiveness possibly in question for Wednesday night's road battle against the high-scoring Huskies, Miller once again could play a key role.
Miller's effort Sunday night was his third double-digit scoring performance of the season, a list that includes 10 points against Fort Lewis on Dec. 2 and a career-high 19 points against Hampton on Dec. 19.
"Tory is in a tough spot because he's playing behind two really, really good, experienced players," Boyle said. "I'm really, really proud of how Tory responded (against Oregon). Tory wants to play more and probably deserves to play more, quite frankly. But he's playing behind two really experienced post guys that have been playing well. I've got a lot of confidence in Tory Miller. I really do."