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February 22, 2014

No. 4 Wildcats stampede Buffaloes, 88-61

Leading into this week of games, Arizona head coach Sean Miller said forward Aaron Gordon could handle more responsibility down the stretch of the regular season. A boost in production was needed after the fourth-ranked Wildcats' offense looked shaky after their first four games without sidelined sophomore Brandon Ashley.

Gordon did the opposite Wednesday at Utah, fouling out for the first time in his career with more than eight minutes to play in a 67-63 overtime win.

The freshman answered the ball Saturday at Colorado, however, scoring 21 of his career-high 23 points in the second half of an 88-61 blowout at Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colo.

"Aaron's really talented," Miller said. "He didn't play one of his best games at Utah and he had a great focus leading into our game. We talked a lot to make sure he was locked in, when you have an attitude like he has, it was only a matter of time before he broke through. He was terrific tonight.

"No question it was his best game at Arizona."

Arizona (25-2, 12-2 Pac-12 Conference) had 57 points in the second half alone, shot a season-best 60.3 percent from the field and tallied a season-high 24 assists on 35 made field goals.

It was Miller's first win in Boulder after dropping the first two since the Buffaloes (20-8, 9-6 Pac-12) joined the league in 2011-12. It was Arizona's first win at Colorado since 1973.

Gordon made 10 of 13 shots - the made field goals also was a career high - and added eight rebounds in 27 minutes. He also overcame early second-half foul trouble - the 6-9 standout had three with more than 17 minutes left - and was never whistled again.

UA extended a six-point halftime advantage on 8-of-10 shooting to open the final 20 minutes. Gordon, Nick Johnson and Gabe York all connected on 3-pointers and Gordon added an easy dunk in transition to push the lead to 52-31 with 12:52 left.

Gordon was 2 of 2 from beyond the arc despite entering the game just 28.6 percent from 3.

Another dunk from the freshman, this time a double-pump, reverse jam, extended the advantage to 16 less than two minutes later. Kaleb Tarczewski then got in on the act as his flush bumped the lead up to 21.

That was essentially the final knockout blow to the Buffaloes, who shot just 32.7 percent and watched the 'Cats connect on a blistering 22 of 26 shots - 6 of 9 from long distance - after halftime.

"Colorado's a good team," Miller said. "We knew we weren't going to run away with it that early, our offense really kicked into another gear in the second half."

Josh Scott, who came off the bench to allow Ben Mills to start on senior night, finished with 18 points and eight rebounds but shot just 4 of 11 from the floor.

Starting wings Xavier Johnson and Askia Booker combined to miss 19 of 24 shots and net 15 points.

"They contest almost every shot," Booker said. "Some defenses you can break down…every time you kick the ball out it feels like they're right on me."

The Wildcats were far from a one-man show, as Nick Johnson added 20 points and Tarczewski chipped in 13. Elsewhere in the box score, York pulled down a career-high 10 boards while T.J. McConnell finished with 10 assists, four steals and no turnovers.

After turning the ball over a season-worst six times at Arizona State, McConnell rebounded to total 16 assists without a turnover in two games this week.

Much like the first meeting in Tucson, the Wildcats took it to the Buffaloes early as stellar defense turned into easy offense.

UA had a 22-5 lead by the midway point, while CU missed its first 14 field goals until Jaron Hopkins' 3-pointer with 9:49 left in the half.

But after making eight of their first 14 attempts, the Wildcats missed five of their final 18 and the Buffs capitalized. A 16-4 run - capped by Scott's layup at the 4:38 mark - pulled CU within five points.

Scott was 3 of 6 from the floor in the half, but the rest of his teammates missed 18 of 21. Regardless, Booker's mid-range jump shot in the closing seconds pulled the Buffaloes within 31-25 going into the locker room.

"My hat goes off to Arizona, they whipped us tonight every which way you can whip a team," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "It was a disappointing performance from our team and I've got to look squarely in the mirror as a coach."

BuffStampede.com contributed to this report.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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