December 21, 2012

Colorado blazes its way to 98-51 win

BOULDER, Colo.- Colorado scored 57 first half points and cruised to a 98-51 over Northern Arizona on Friday night, setting season highs in multiple statistical categories.

Those records include first half points (57), total points (98), assists (24), field-goal percentage (66.7%) and win differential (47).

It was a complete team effort from the Buffs as five players scored in double-figures. Askia Booker got things started with 12 of the Buffs' first 15 points, finishing with 17 along with four rebounds. Spencer Dinwiddie took his turn in running things on the offensive end, finishing with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Others in double-figures included Xavier Johnson (17 points, a career high), Andre Roberson (10 points) and Josh Scott (11 points).

"What a great way to go into Christmas break," said Tad Boyle. "I was really proud of our guys, playing unselfish basketball."

CU's lead would increase to a high of 53 points, coming out with a determined effort in the second half. Colorado entered halftime with leads over Wyoming and Colorado State, barely holding off the Rams but losing to the Cowboys.

"Our guys bought in," Boyle said. "We haven't handled coming out of halftime well. I think they just took it heart."

Much of the focus during the week was directed at returning to Boyle's principles of defense and rebounding. Colorado's defense was suffocating from the beginning, holding the visiting Lumberjacks to just 33.3% shooting in the first half, 31.1% on the game.

"It's our number one focus all the time," Dinwiddie said. "Being able to practice for nine or ten days gets it back into your head more than if you're playing (games) every day."

The rest of the focus was towards getting production from a bench that averaged less than 11 points per game coming into Friday's contest. That bench gave the Buffs 39 points in Colorado's ninth-win of the season.

"Those guys are going to be important for us," Boyle said. "Sometimes those guys come off the bench and need a confidence booster."

Boyle had talked during the week about wanting to get his reserves significant playing time before conference play starts next month. He got just that, playing his bench for a combined 102 minutes compared to 98 from his starters.

"The conference season is a grind," he said. "There are times as a coach you think more is better in terms of practice time. I think you've really got to listen to your team and see where they are at emotionally."

The Buffs moved to 9-2 on the season and have a chance to secure their best non-conference start since Boyle took charge of the program before the 2010-2011 season when they play Hartford on December 29.


Notes

•Askia Booker snapped out of a four game stretch where his field-goal percentage hovered around 25%. He shot 8-of-9 from the field while committing zero turnovers.

"Coming to the arena I was hoping 'Ski could get off," Boyle said. "We've stuck with him…this break was good for him and he got his confidence back."

•Colorado begins its Pac-12 schedule on January 3 in Tucson against the Wildcats. The Buffs have a conference tournament title to defend.

"Everybody is anxious to get Pac-12 play started," Dinwiddie said. "Opening up at Arizona is going to be big for us."

•Boyle said that the nine-day rest in between games at Fresno State and versus NAU was key for the team's ability to secure the win. That rest was something he counted on during his scheduling over the offseason.

"I knew it was tough before it started," Boyle said of his non-conference slate. "Scheduling is not a science it's an art."

•Colorado still has to take care of business against Hartford, but they seem to have avoided any non-conference blunders that would work against them with the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Boyle has expressed past frustration with his teams' inability to shore up a quality resume early in the season. This year, his group is 9-2 against one of the toughest schedules in the country

"I think the Charleston Classic was a key for us this year," he said. "The hardest thing to do in college basketball is to win on the road. We had six (games) in Coors (Event Center) and six outside of it."


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