Colorado continues push towards third consecutive NCAA tournament berth
As many teams would need to do in the aftermath of a major personnel loss, Colorado had some adjustments to make once junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie went down in the first half of their loss at Washington on January 12 with a torn ACL. One of the nation’s best perimeter defenders, Dinwiddie ran the show for a team that was expected to contend for the Pac-12 title this season.
Clearly that wasn’t to be the case once he was lost, with the Buffaloes losing three of the four games they played in the immediate aftermath of that injury. But since that stretch, which included being swept on the road by the Arizona schools, Colorado’s won five of its last six games with their most recent result being a 61-52 win over Arizona State on Wednesday night. Tad Boyle’s team may not have shot particularly well from the field, making 37% of their shots, but they defended well and absolutely whipped the Sun Devils on the glass.
Arizona State shot just 31.5% from the field, with the guard tandem of Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall combining to shoot 8-for-28. And in regards to the rebounding Colorado rebounded just over 40% of its misses, converting those 15 offensive rebounds into a 12-0 edge in second-chance points. And leading the charge on the boards was none other than sophomore Josh Scott, who finished the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Scott, who’s been one of the Pac-12’s most improved players all season long, and junior guard Askia Booker have been the key pieces for Colorado as they’ve put together this current stretch of quality basketball. And in regards to Booker, who at times struggled mightily with shot selection while Dinwiddie was on the court, even with his 5-for-17 night against Arizona State he’s been a more efficient player. Booker scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, making all eight of his free throw attempts and doing a better job of making plays in the final 20 minutes.
Booker’s posted an offensive rating of 105 or better in five of Colorado’s last six games, with their win at USC being the exception. And even in the one loss, a 92-74 defeat suffered at the hands of a UCLA team that’s playing the best basketball of any team in the conference, Booker dished out 12 assists to just two turnovers. This is still a work in progress given the need for Booker to properly balance his scoring and distribution responsibilities, but he and his teammates have looked more comfortable in their roles over the last six games.
Wednesday was was big because it was a quality win for Colorado without Dinwiddie in the lineup, and it sets up the Buffaloes for what will be a major opportunity on Saturday night when No. 4 Arizona visits Boulder. The Wildcats dominated the first meeting, but that was when they had Brandon Ashley in the fold. Already in good shape to earn their third consecutive NCAA tournament berth, Tad Boyle’s team can make a significant statement in that regard with a win.