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Energetic Xavier Johnson pushes CU Buffs men’s basketball past Wofford

Colorado's Xavier Johnson, left, drives past Wofford's Ryan Sawvell in Boulder on Sunday. Colorado won 75-60. Go to BuffZone.com for more photos.
Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer
Colorado’s Xavier Johnson, left, drives past Wofford’s Ryan Sawvell in Boulder on Sunday. Colorado won 75-60. Go to BuffZone.com for more photos.

Fast break

What went right: The Buffs improved defensively in the second half to slow a hot-shooting Wofford squad and also turned 13 turnovers by the Terriers into 17 points. CU shot a season-best .565 from the field.

What went wrong: CU’s defensive energy was lagging early, and the Buffs went only 17-for-27 at the free throw line.

Star of the game: Xavier Johnson. The senior continues to impress in his return from a torn Achilles tendon, posting his first double-double of the season and seventh of his career. Johnson matched a career-high with 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

What’s next: The Buffs welcome state rival Colorado State to the Coors Events Center at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

That feeling of elation that swept through Folsom Field Saturday night?

For a good portion of the action Sunday afternoon at the Coors Events Center it was quite the opposite, with a vibe far more subdued and anxious.

The hot shooting of visiting Wofford made the CU faithful, a bunch still ready to party after Saturday night’s celebration at Folsom, decidedly uneasy. And the energy level of a Terriers squad eyeing a significant upset put the Buffs on their heels out of the gate.

Yet one prominent exception to CU’s energy crisis was senior Xavier Johnson, whose performance allowed the Buffaloes pull away late for a 75-60 victory.

“I think X has played really, really unselfishly,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “He’s taking good shots. I really like the way he’s helping lead this team. One thing we know Xavier does night in, night out is he competes. I thought his competitiveness kind of rubbed off against the rest of the guys. We need that from everybody, it can’t be just one or two guys.”

Johnson posted his first double-double of the season and the seventh of his career, matching a career-high with 27 points while adding nine rebounds. Johnson went 9-for-14 from the field and 7-for-11 at the free throw line, matching his career-bests in made free throws and free throw attempts.

Leading up to the game, Boyle expressed concern about Wofford’s shooting prowess, and the Terriers justified those concerns by going 13-for-26 in the first half. After leading by just one point at halftime, the Buffs were able to hold Wofford to a .370 mark after the break.

The Buffs also were outrebounded by the shorter Terriers 14-13 in the first half but finished with a 32-25 advantage on the glass.

“I think they slowed themselves down, honestly,” Johnson said. “We continued to pressure them, and they made some turnovers and their shots started going short because, honestly, we’re at altitude and they got tired of running around.

“Nothing changed. It’s willpower.”

Wofford took a 36-35 lead early in the second half on a 3-pointer from Nathan Hoover, but the Buffs finally asserted themselves offensively by reeling off 11 consecutive points to take the lead for good. Wofford again battled to within eight points with a little under four minutes remaining, but CU tallied the next six points and outscored the Terriers 12-5 the rest of the way to improve to 5-1.

George King, Derrick White, and Wesley Gordon all finished with 10 points for the Buffs, with King doing all his damage in the second half. Gordon added nine rebounds and the Buffs shot a season-high .565 (26-for-46) from the floor.

“I think (Wofford) is going to win a lot of games in their league this year,” Boyle said. “Is it a game we should’ve won? Yeah, it probably is. But it’s not easy. What our players need to understand is every time they step on the floor, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, it doesn’t matter where you’re playing, it doesn’t matter when you’re playing — you have to be ready to go.

“I thought that was a lesson maybe we learned against Notre Dame, but I wasn’t real pleased with our energy level in that first half. I thought it got much better in the second half.”

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07

CU 75, Wofford 60

FG
FT
Reb

WOFFORD
Min
M-A
M-A
O-T
A
PF
PTS

Sawvell
27
3-4
3-3
0-3
1
3
10

Pegram
15
1-2
0-0
1-1
1
5
2

Allen
16
1-3
0-0
0-1
1
2
2

Garcia
32
3-7
0-0
0-1
8
2
7

Magee
34
4-17
3-5
1-6
4
2
15

Hoover
24
3-8
0-0
0-2
0
2
7

Jackson
19
5-7
0-0
2-6
3
4
10

J.Tucker
13
1-3
0-0
1-3
0
1
2

Brooks
8
1-1
0-0
0-0
1
1
2

Lowery
7
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
2
0

Theme-Love
5
1-1
0-0
0-0
0
0
3

Totals

200

23-53

6-8

5-23

19

24

60

Percentages: FG .434, FT .750.3-Point Goals: 8-23, .348 (Magee 4-10, Theme-Love 1-1, Sawvell 1-2, Garcia 1-4, Hoover 1-5, Allen 0-1).Team Rebounds: 2. Team Turnovers:
12 (11 PTS).Blocked Shots: 1 (Pegram).Turnovers: 12 (Allen 2, Garcia 2, Jackson 2, Pegram 2, Theme-Love 2, Magee, Sawvell).Steals: 5 (Garcia 2, J.Tucker, Lowery, Magee).Technical Fouls: None.

FG
FT
Reb

CU
Min
M-A
M-A
O-T
A
PF
PTS

Gordon
28
4-9
2-2
2-9
2
0
10

Fortune
22
2-5
2-2
0-0
3
3
8

King
26
4-4
1-2
0-0
1
3
10

White
33
3-5
4-8
0-2
2
1
10

Johnson
32
9-14
7-11
3-12
0
1
27

Peters
18
1-2
1-2
0-2
1
1
3

Siewert
17
0-3
0-0
0-0
1
1
0

Akyazili
14
1-1
0-0
0-2
3
1
2

Brown
10
2-3
0-0
1-1
0
0
5

Totals

200

26-46

17-27

6-28

13

11

75

Percentages: FG .565, FT .630.3-Point Goals: 6-12, .500 (Fortune 2-4, Johnson 2-4, Brown 1-1, King 1-1, Siewert 0-2).Team Rebounds: 4. Team Turnovers:
12 (17 PTS).Blocked Shots: 2 (Gordon 2).Turnovers: 12 (King 3, Akyazili 2, Johnson 2, White 2, Brown, Gordon, Siewert).Steals: 6 (White 3, Fortune, Gordon, Peters).Technical Fouls: None.

Wofford
30
30

60

Colorado
31
44

75

A — 6,854 (11,064).

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