BOULDER – Colorado overpowered Washington 91-65 on Sunday night at the Coors Events Center, capping a crucial three-game home stand with its third consecutive win and its second-largest margin of victory since joining the Pac-12 Conference.
The night quickly turned into all Buffs all the time, and coach Tad Boyle called it “as complete of a performance by our team that we’ve had in a long time. When you defend and you rebound and you shoot the way we did, it’s a recipe for a runaway win.
“I’m really proud of our guys, they played together . . . we had 18 assists, it’s been a long time since we’ve had that number, we really shared the ball and played inside-out. Great individual performances and a great team performance.”
The win gave the Buffaloes their second three-game Pac-12 winning streak of the season. They opened 3-0, then lost Spencer Dinwiddie and Tre’Shaun Fletcher during a 71-54 defeat at UW and dropped four of their next five games.
But on Sunday night, CU (18-6, 7-4) in no way resembled the team that last month slipped badly in Seattle. Getting an air-tight defensive effort on UW sharpshooter C.J. Wilcox and 20-point scoring performances from three players, the Buffs rolled to a 48-33 halftime lead and led by as many as 30 points (89-59) in winning for the 15th time (against one loss) at the CEC this season. Their 15 home wins are the second-best for a CU team; the 2010-11 Buffs went 18-2.
Xavier Johnson, Josh Scott and Askia Booker accounted for 68 of CU’s total, with Johnson scoring a career-high 27, Scott tying a career high with 21 (10 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season) and Booker adding 20.
“Those guys just picked it up,” said UW coach Lorenzo Romar. “All three of them picked up the slack for what they didn’t have. I don’t think (their length inside) bothered us much. Not as much as it did the first time. It bothered us the first time we played them although Josh Scott is a very good player and shot blocker and defender.”
A trio of Buffs reaching 20 points hadn’t happened since Feb. 3, 2007 when Kal Bay (21), Dominique Coleman (20) and Richard Roby (20) all reached the 20-point mark against Oklahoma State.
Booker scored 26 points in CU’s 68-63 win over Washington State on Wednesday night, and Johnson had 20. The WSU and UW games marked the first time in XJ’s career for back-to-back 20-point games, and he also was instrumental in keeping Wilcox in check.
“I felt like if not his best game as a Buff then it’s right up there,” Boyle said of Johnson. “He was terrific on both ends of the floor. The thing I’m most proud of with Xavier Johnson is his ability to take on a defensive challenge. He did it against Cue Johnson (WSU guard) and he did it tonight against C.J. Wilcox.”
Johnson called Wilcox “a great player. I didn’t guard him last game, so coach was trying something new and put me on him. I was able to contain him for the most part, but most of the credit goes to Jaron (Hopkins). He guarded him most of the game and did very well on him.”
Scott, who was held to one point and one rebound – both season lows – against WSU – recovered in a big way. His 21 points and 10 rebounds gave him his 11th double-double of the season.
“The only thing I’d say about that game (WSU) is that I didn’t rebound well,” Scott said. “There’s not very much you can do offensively with three people in the paint. Tonight I just played my game like I did the other night and it all worked out.”
Scott also called going 3-0 in the three-game home stand “huge. You always want to win at home and for us losing any of these games wasn’t an option. It’s big. We have a heavier next couple of weeks so any games we win at home is huge at this point in the season.”
CU outrebounded UW (13-10, 5-5) 44-30 and held the Huskies to 32.3 percent (21-of-65) from the field. Wilcox entered the game averaging 19.8 points (18.9 in league play). In the first game in Seattle, he scored 31 points, including seven 3-pointers. The Buffs limited him to eight points on 2-for-10 shooting Sunday night, and he was 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. Freshman Nigel Williams-Goss led the Huskies, who had averaged 76 points a game, with 15 points.
Since January, the Buffs have had to compensate for injuries and the trend continued Sunday. Wesley Gordon, who had 8 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocked shots in Wednesday night’s win against Washington State, missed Sunday’s game with an ankle sprain he suffered when slipping on ice on Saturday.
Gordon watched in street clothes, sitting alongside Dinwiddie on the CU bench. Making his first college start in place of Gordon was freshman Dustin Thomas, the “next man up” in Boyle’s philosophy. Thomas fouled out with 1:41 to play after scoring 3 points and collecting 4 rebounds.
Boyle said his team, while obviously missing Dinwiddie, has “settled in. We’ve moved on, we certainly miss Spencer still but I think Askia Booker has really taken on that mentality of a facilitator, Xavier Talton has stepped in and given us good minutes. We do need Wesley back because he’s going to be important to us. We’ve made the transition, but now the test for us is to go on the road. We’ve done what we needed to do at home, we’ve won our home stand and now we need to go on the road and get some road wins.”
The Buffs opened and closed the first half on baskets by Talton, who was making his second career start at guard. Talton opened the scoring with a 3-pointer from the left wing and three of his teammates quickly followed suit. CU hit its first six shots, including its first four 3-point attempts.
“Colorado, wow,” said Romar. “They came out on fire, shots contested, not contested. They were just knocking shots down and knocked us back on our heels right away. I thought coming into the game we were pretty focused and ready to play but their ability to hit shots early pushed us back a little bit. They did a nice job coming in to play.”
CU shot 52 percent from the field and 60 percent from beyond the arc (6-of-10) in the first 20 minutes and finished at a season-best 64.4 percent (9-of-14) from long range for the game. The Buffs shot 55.4 percent (31-of-56) from the field for the night.
Booker, Johnson and Thomas all hit their first 3-point tries, helping push CU to a 16-4 with 16:10 left before intermission. UW didn’t get its first field goal until just under 31/2 minutes into the game, missing 10 of its first 13 shots.
The Buffs stretched their lead to 17 (26-19) before they temporarily cooled off, allowing the Huskies to creep back to within seven (37-30) with 4:10 left before the break. But over those final 4 minutes, CU outscored UW 11-3. When Talton hit a buzzer beater to end the first-half scoring, the Buffs had a 48-33 lead and their largest first-half total of the season. Booker’s 16 points led all first-half scorers and gave him a career high for points scored in one half.
The opening of the second half mirrored the first, with Talton draining a triple from the left wing and Johnson scoring the next six points to send CU up 57-39. Booker then hit a pair of free throws with 15:25 to play, fed Scott for a fast break dunk and hit a short jumper in the lane to push the Buffs ahead by 23 (63-40).
If the Huskies were going to avoid their third consecutive loss, something dramatic had to happen – and fast. It didn’t, and UW lost for the fifth time in six Pac-12 road trips. CU, meanwhile, hadn't beaten a conference opponent that badly since burying Utah 73-33 in 2011 -- both schools' first season in the league.
The Buffs play at UCLA on Thursday (7 p.m. MT, ESPN2) and at Southern California on Sunday (6 p.m. MT, ESPNU).