Buffs Come Together, Lay Unlikely Whipping On Ducks
BOULDER - The Colorado men's basketball team had plenty of reason to worry heading into Thursday's home matchup against No. 19 Oregon.
The Buffs could have let the absence of one key player hinder their performance. Instead, they turned that nervous energy into an improbable 76-53 victory at the Coors Events Center.
Junior forward Andre Roberson, the nation's top rebounder and a CU staple at 11.5 rebounds and 10.8 points per game, was out with a viral illness, news that coach Tad Boyle said he received Tuesday evening.
When he told his players Wednesday at practice, though, they weren't fazed.
"They didn't blink," Boyle said. "I didn't know how they were going to respond. I told Spencer (Dinwiddie) and Ski (Booker) on Tuesday so they could kind of process it in their minds, but the rest of our team responded obviously very well. You realize that the program is bigger than any one player."
The Buffs knew they had to make up for Roberson's absence with extra effort on both ends of the court. And while nearly every healthy CU player hit the court Thursday night, freshman forward Xavier Johnson and sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie led the charge.
"We all just try to pitch in on whatever we're going to lose," Dinwiddie said. "When Andre goes out we lose 11 points and 11 rebounds, so we knew 11 points and 11 rebounds had to come from someplace else."
Dinwiddie scored 17 points and grabbed seven boards, all of which were on the defensive end.
Johnson, meanwhile, led the Buffs in scoring with a game-high 22 points; he added three rebounds in the process. Johnson shot nearly perfectly, hitting 7-of-7 field goals, 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, and 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
"Andre's out, so we needed to produce," Johnson said. "It's hard. It puts a lot of pressure on us freshmen and everybody else, knowing that we have to get back every rebound because that's usually his job. But we just tried to just do the best we can."
Boyle needed his entire team to step up for reasons beyond Roberson's absence, though. With four starters in foul trouble toward the end of the first half, Boyle dipped into his bench - and he wasn't disappointed.
The Buffs had 15 points from off the bench, including seven from junior guard Jeremy Adams.
Boyle said knowing he can put trust in his bench when necessary gave him confidence as a coach heading into the postseason.
"The thing that you look for as a coach is you look for consistency, and on nights like this it makes you feel good," Boyle said. "But Saturday is a new day, and we've got to be ready to strap it up. That's what makes this game so fun, you never know what you're going to get."
CU takes on Oregon State Saturday in its final regular-season contest - and while Boyle said Roberson's status remains day-to-day, his players have shown their ability to step up no matter the situation.