BOULDER – In the end, the most important stat never is found alongside an individual’s name – and for that reason Josh Scott eventually left the Coors Events Center feeling satisfied Wednesday night.
Colorado struggled late with its perimeter defense, but held off Washington State 68-63 for its sixth Pac-12 win and 17th overall. So Scott deemed it a good night. Personally, however, he’s seen better. Indeed, much, much better.
The 6-10 Scott is CU’s second-leading scorer (13.8 ppg) and leading rebounder (8.8 rpg) and is tied for second in the Pac-12 in double-doubles (10 overall, four in league play). When he left the court Wednesday night he wasn’t close to any of those numbers.
Consider: Oh-for-three from the field, one point on one-of-two free throws, one rebound, one personal foul, one turnover, no assists, no steals in 32 minutes. And he got his lone point and rebound in the final half minute.
Given the productivity of his sophomore season to date – 13 consecutive games scoring in double figures and being limited to single figures in only three of CU’s 23 games – Scott conceded his stat line took him aback.
“I was talking to my family after the game and they were saying they couldn’t remember a game where it was like that,” he said. “I can’t either. So that’s kind of shocking. But at the same time, it was a big win and I wasn’t too absorbed in it. You’re frustrated in the moment, but I was just happy in the end we pulled it out. I would have felt bad if we’d have lost – that’s for sure. I’m not going to worry about it.”
NO NEED TO, FOR SCOTT is as an intense and tireless a worker as CU has on its roster. A ramped up off-season conditioning and dietary program took him from just under 220 to 245 pounds for his sophomore season. And coach Tad Boyle has said during the course of this season that among the big differences he sees in Scott now is a no excuse, no alibi mentality that wasn’t present in year one. Scott wasn’t a typical freshman when he arrived on campus, but even atypical first-year players can grow up – and that’s what Scott is doing.
“Josh is fine,” Boyle said. “He definitely likes to score, to get his hands on the ball. So there might have been some frustration (on Wednesday). But Josh is a very mature young man. That’s not to say he’s not emotional. He can get emotional, like we all can. But he’s very mature.”
Washington State, said Scott and his coach, focused on taking him out of CU’s offense. When he was able to touch the ball, he found double-team pressure like he hadn’t experienced this season. His three field goal attempts were close to six below his average.
“They did a good job of denying, of fronting me,” Scott said. “Then if I did catch it, I had one person on me and another person sagging in the lane. But my teammates made them pay for it. You can’t argue with that; they played great. That’s all I’m looking at.”
There was a whole lot to take in. Guard Askia Booker scored 26 points – one below his career high – and forward Xavier Johnson scored 20 – one below his season high and two below his career best. Johnson also collected nine rebounds, one less than forward Wesley Gordon, who also contributed eight points and four blocked shots.
Asked if he believed upcoming opponents – including Washington on Sunday at the CEC (6 p.m., ESPNU) – might take a cue from Wazzu, Scott answered, “I guess the right word, selfishly, is I hope they wouldn’t. But as a team, if they’re not going to guard my teammates, we’re too talented for them to do that . . . if they keep doing that you’re going to see more 20 balls from ‘X’ Johnson and Ski (Booker) and other people shooting threes, too. It’s all about winning.
“(WSU) put a lot of focus on me defensively. Sometimes you just have to accept that. Some nights – especially as a post player – they’re not going to let you touch the ball. They did a good job of that, but we won the war. So that’s all that matters to me. I’m pretty confident and ready to go.”
Boyle wants the Buffs to create a “pick your poison” scenario. Johnson’s and Booker’s scoring success, he said, was directly tied to WSU’s defensive focus on Scott: “If you’re going to take Josh out of the game by doubling him, then it’s going to free up some other guys to hurt you.
“And if you don’t double Josh, he has an opportunity to score down low and he’s capable, as we know, of doing that . . . I think everybody that plays Colorado goes about it a little different way. I don’t think there’s any one way to defend us. There’s multiple ways and sometimes they’re effective and sometimes they’re not – based on how we play.”
WITH THE SEASON INTO ITS fourth month, Boyle said Scott has been “nursing some nagging” ailments that have “taken a toll on his body. It happened last year and this year. It happens every year to every player. He’s not unlike any big guy in our league. Guys are bruised and beat up a little bit.”
Scott agreed: “I’m beat up like everybody else, but you have to fight through that.”
Against UW in CU’s 71-54 loss last month in Seattle, Scott led the Buffs with 15 points on 4-of-9 from the field and made all seven of his free throw attempts. The Huskies, said Scott, “sagged on me a little in the lane, but I did pretty well against it the first time and I’m confident.”
Boyle’s concerns about Sunday’s rematch with UW (13-10, 5-5) neither start nor end with Scott returning to form. Rather, Boyle is focused on the Buffs defending UW’s guards – particularly C.J. Wilcox, who scored 31 points – hitting 7-of-12 treys – in the first meeting. Wilcox is the Pac-12’s second-leading scorer (19.8 ppg) and first in the conference in 3-pointers attempted a game (3.09). He’s 68-of-159 from long range, with his 42.8 percent ranking him sixth in 3-point percentage.
“To me he’s the premier shooter in our league without a doubt,” Boyle said. “And he’s gotten better at putting the ball on the floor. He’s a more complete player than in the past. He’s more than just a jump shooter. He’s terrific; we have to be there every time he catches it.”
Boyle isn’t sure who will open defensively on Wilcox; Spencer Dinwiddie did in the first game but Dinwiddie is out for the season with the knee injury he suffered in that game. The player(s) drawing that assignment will have to be more efficient than in Wednesday night’s duel with WSU’s DaVonte Lacy, who torched the Buffs for 34 points.
“We didn’t do a very good job on him,” Boyle said. “We’re still looking for that lock-down perimeter defender (minus Dinwiddie). We’ve got capable guys but I don’t think we have anybody who relishes that role.”
Wilcox had help against CU in Seattle from fellow guards Nigel Williams-Goss (12 points) and Andrew Andrews (14). But Boyle said the Buffs, who also lost freshman wing Tre’Shaun Fletcher (knee) in what turned out to be an emotionally difficult game, hurt themselves with careless decisions and shot selection.
Said Boyle: “That cost us the game. We tried to go one-on-one and take it on ourselves individually. Since that day we’ve understood that for us to be successful we have to do it together, do it as a group, a unit on both sides of the floor.”
That’s what happened Wednesday night. CU won with the group approach against Wazzu. Even with Josh Scott temporarily smothered, the Buffs still didn’t suffocate.