LOS ANGELES — The Batman look was perhaps appropriate, because Javon Ruffin swooped in and almost saved the day for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Ruffin’s rescue attempt didn’t come to fruition on Thursday night, as a turnover-filled effort by the Buffs led to a 68-61 defeat at USC. But his performance was a bright spot on an otherwise dismal night for CU. And what made it more impressive was that Ruffin had little to no time to get acquainted with the face mask he was forced to wear against the Trojans.
The redshirt freshman guard said he suffered a fractured nose during last week’s win against Oregon State. Ruffin’s custom-fitted mask didn’t arrive until after the team shoot-around on Thursday morning, meaning Ruffin was only able to hoist few pregame practice shots with his new accessory before debuting it against the Trojans.
CU’s masked slinger from 3-point range will try to keep his hot streak going when the Buffs look to pull off a major upset on Saturday night at No. 7 UCLA.
“Every shot I shoot, I feel like it’s going in,” Ruffin said. “If I get an opportunity if someone leaves me open, I’m not going to be scared to take it. It doesn’t matter if I’ve hit three or if I’m 0-for-5.
“I broke my nose last game but it’s nothing really that serious. The mask is just a precaution to make sure I don’t make it any worse. I actually just got it after shoot-around. Between the last game and (Thursday) I had to get scanned and get it made. I wanted to get used to it in warm-ups.”
If Ruffin is the superstitious sort, he might retain the mask even after his nose heals. After CU fell behind 15-3, Ruffin entered the game and almost immediately helped get the Buffs back in the game with a pair of 3-pointers. He also was fouled on another 3-point attempt and knocked down all three free throws.
On a team that hasn’t been as strong from long range as expected, Ruffin’s 3-for-6 mark at USC increased his season 3-point percentage to a solid .388. He finished with 12 points, matching his second-highest scoring total of the season, and also matched a season-high with five rebounds. On a night that saw the Buffs essentially lose the game due to a season-high 22 turnovers, Ruffin wasn’t responsible for any of them in 23 minutes of court time.
“We’ve just got to play under control,” Ruffin said. “A lot of our turnovers weren’t even on passes or anything. A lot of it was just handling the ball, or stepping out of bounds and stuff like that. Those are all things we can easily, easily control. We just have to play a little bit smarter.”
The finale of the Los Angeles trip is a much more difficult assignment for the Buffs, as UCLA improved to 6-0 in the Pac-12 Conference with a 21-point home win on Thursday night against Utah.
“You’ve got to move on. You’ve got to have a short memory in this league and you’ve got to bounce back quickly,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “UCLA, they’re really, really good. They’ve got two of the best seniors in college basketball in my opinion, not just the Pac-12, in Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez. They’re terrific players in this league. So we’d better be ready.”
CU Buffs men’s basketball at No. 7 UCLA Bruins
TIPOFF: Saturday, 6 p.m. MT, Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles.
TV/RADIO: TV — FOX. Radio — KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.
RECORDS: Colorado 11-7, 3-4 Pac-12 Conference; UCLA 15-2, 6-0.
COACHES: UCLA — Mick Cronin, 4th season (83-32, 448-203 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 13th season (265-162, 321-228 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: UCLA — G/F Jaime Jaquez Jr., 6-7, Sr. (16.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, .513 3-point percentage); G Jaylen Clark, 6-5, Jr. (14.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, .518 field goal percentage); G Tyger Campbell, 5-11, R-Sr. (13.5 ppg, 4.8 apg, .372 3-point percentage); G David Singleton, 6-4, Gr. (10.4 ppg, .474 3-point percentage). Colorado — G KJ Simpson, 6-2, So. (17.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.9 apg); F Tristan da Silva, 6-9, Jr. (14.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, .525 field goal percentage); F J’Vonne Hadley, 6-6, Jr. (8.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, .556 field goal percentage).
NOTES: Following Thursday’s loss at USC, Colorado dropped only two spots in Friday’s NET rankings, dipping to No. 62 from No. 60. … The Buffs have struggled to defend the 3-point line for much of the season, and they will be tested from long range against the Bruins, who lead the Pac-12 with a .371 3-point percentage. CU ranks 10th in the conference with a .328 defensive 3-point percentage. … Reason for hope for Colorado fans? The Buffs are 2-0 against ranked foes this season, defeating Tennessee (then No. 11) and Texas A&M (No. 24) on neutral floors in November. … The Bruins have won 12 consecutive games since suffering back-to-back losses in November against Illinois and Baylor in Las Vegas. … Coming off his first career double-double at USC with career-highs of 13 points and 14 rebounds, Buffs center Lawson Lovering has gone 13-for-21 in the past five games. … CU returns home to host the Washington schools, beginning Thursday against the UW Huskies (7 p.m., ESPNU).