Arizona faces wounded, but still dangerous Buffalo squad
Colorado (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12 Conference) lost its leading scorer, junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie, due to a season-ending knee injury, but No. 1-ranked Arizona can’t overlook the Buffaloes.
The Wildcats (18-0, 5-0 Pac-12) will host Colorado in the friendly confines of McKale Center tonight, as Arizona attempts to tie former head coach Lute Olson’s record of 19 consecutive wins. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be aired on ESPN2.
Dinwiddie, the squad’s unquestioned leader and best player, fell to the court clutching his knee in pain Jan. 12 in the first half of Colorado’s 71-54 loss at Washington.
“Spencer Dinwiddie, in my estimation, is one of the best guards, not only in our conference, but in the game of college basketball,” head coach Sean Miller said in Tuesday’s Pac-12 teleconference call. “If you just look at his free throw attempts alone and think about the damage that does to Colorado’s opponents — it’s mind-boggling. He’s also an excellent defender.”
Dinwiddie’s absence was immediately felt as the Buffaloes, who at the time of the injury were leading the Huskies 29-26, but ultimately lost by 17.
Miller said that CU is good enough to make the NCAA tournament.
“That’s a big loss for Colorado, and it would be a big loss for any team,” Miller said. “It made me sick when I saw him get hurt, but we respect Colorado a big deal, and I have no doubt based on the other talented players they have — and Tad [Boyle] and his staff — that they’re going to be fine.”
Who to watch out for:
Xavier Johnson – sophomore forward – #2
— 6-foot-7; 220 pounds
— Averaging 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game this season
While the Wildcats may have won the war — taking two of three from the Buffaloes last season — the UA only outscored Colorado 229-223.
Johnson excelled as a freshman against Arizona especially in the CU upset of the then-No. 9 Wildcats, 71-58, in Boulder, Colo.
Johnson averaged 14.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and an assist per game against Arizona last season. In his career, he is shooting 14-for-22 (63.6 percent) from the floor when facing the Wildcats and is 7-for-10 (70 percent) from 3-point range.
Johnson is shooting .515 from the field with 43.9 percent accuracy from beyond the arc this year.
Josh Scott – sophomore forward – #40
— 6-foot-10; 245 pounds
— Averaging 14.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game this season
Last year, in the UA/CU game in Tucson, Scott made 6-of-8 attempts from the field and 3-of-4 from the stripe for 15 points, and had five rebounds, two assists and a block.
In the last two match-ups, though, Scott scored six points in Boulder and only two in the rubber match in the Pac-12 quarterfinals.
Wesley Gordon — freshman forward — #1
— 6-foot-9; 225 pounds
— Averaging 6.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this season
Gordon has compiled double-digits five times this year and enjoyed a double-double performance (11 points, 13 rebounds) against Washington.
Gordon entered college with a four-star rating and was ranked the No. 23 power forward in his class by Scout.com.
Askia Booker — junior guard — #0
— 6-foot-2; 170 pounds
— Averaging 13.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game this season
Booker contributed no fewer than 10 points in each of his team’s contests with Arizona last season and averaged 13.3 points when facing the Wildcats. Over his career against the UA, he is averaging just over 9.1 points per game.
Colorado’s notable wins this season:
— Jan. 5 in Boulder: 100-91 upset over then-No. 10 Oregon
Colorado overcame a 10-point second-half deficit to give Oregon its first loss of the year.
— Dec. 7 in Boulder: 75-72 upset over then No. 6 Kansas
Johnson and Scott combined for 28 points and 10 boards as Colorado upset No. 6 Kansas. The two teams, which played each other consistently in the Big 12 before the Buffaloes left for the Pac-12, keep a heated rivalry going with annual home-and-home games. While Kansas entered the game with a 123-39 series advantage, Colorado stunned the Jayhawks with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
— Nov. 24 in Boulder: 70-62 over Harvard
Harvard led for nearly 35 minutes of the game, but the Buffaloes came back from being down by 14 points in the opening minute of the second half.
No. 1 Arizona defeats Colorado 83-75
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17