CU men's hoops preview
TODAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (16-6, 5-4 Pac-12) host the Washington State Cougars (9-12, 2-7) in a 7:30 p.m. game at Coors Events Center in Boulder.
Radio -- KOA (850 AM), with Mark Johnson on play-by-play and Scott Wilke providing color commentary. TV - Pac-12 Network, with JB Long and Lamar Hurd on the call.
STORYLINES: CU is seeking its second consecutive win, after knocking off Utah, 79-75 in overtime, on Saturday. ... The Buffs are 13-1 at home this season and 57-8 during head coach Tad Boyle's four season. ... CU defeated Washington State, 71-70 in overtime, on Jan. 8 in Spokane, Wash. Josh Scott had a team-high 19 points for the Buffs, while Askia Booker added 18, including 13-for-14 at the free throw line. ... Washington State's Dexter Kernich-Drew had a career-high 24 points against the Buffs. He has scored just 31 total points in the six games since. ... Washington State snapped a four-game losing streak with a 72-67 win against rival Washington on Saturday. ... During Pac-12 play, Washington State ranks last in field goal percentage (.
KEY STAT: In Pac-12 games, CU is second in the conference in rebounding margin (plus-4.6), while Washington State is last (minus-5.0). When out-rebounding their opponents, the Buffs are 13-2 this season and 67-12 under Boyle.
COACHES: Tad Boyle is 85-44 in his fourth season at CU and 141-110 for his career. Ken Bone is 79-77 in his fifth season at Washington State and 414-242 during his career.
Colorado -- G Jaron Hopkins, 6-5, Fr. (5.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg); G Askia Booker, 6-2, Jr. (13.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.7 apg); F Wesley Gordon, 6-9, Fr. (6.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.6 bpg); F Xavier Johnson, 6-7, So. (10.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg); F Josh Scott, 6-10, So. (14.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg). Washington State - G DaVonte Lacy, 6-4, Jr. (17.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg); G Que Johnson, 6-5, Fr. (10.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg); G Royce Woolridge, 6-3, Jr. (8.4 ppg, 3.1 apg); F D.J. Shelton, 6-10, Sr. (9.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg); C Jordan Railey, 7-0, Jr. (3.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg).
SERIES: CU leads 4-1, including 2-0 in Boulder. The Buffs are 3-0 against the Cougars since joining the Pac-12 Conference.
UP NEXT: CU will host Washington on Sunday at 6 p.m.
At this time a week ago, the outside perception of the Colorado men's basketball team was that the Buffaloes were in a tailspin that would land them somewhere on the NIT bracket next month.
Today, the Buffs (16-6, 5-4 Pac-12) are feeling more like themselves as they welcome Washington State (9-12, 2-7) to Boulder. The Buffs will host the Cougars on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
"The week we had off, we got a lot done," sophomore Xavier Johnson said. "We were able to get a lot of shots, a lot of opportunities and work on our defense a lot.
"I think we needed that week just to get back to the foundations of what we do best."
Following a 72-51 loss at Arizona State on Jan. 25, the Buffs had a full week to prepare for Utah, and then beat the Utes 79-75 in overtime on Saturday.
They got that win by playing the solid defense that eluded them in Tempe, Ariz., dominating the boards like they usually do, and getting offensive contributions from several different players. It was a much-needed result for the Buffs.
"We have to add to and build upon last Saturday's game," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "There are areas for improvement for this team."
CU made some improvement against Utah, and will look for more against a Washington State team that has struggled this season, but comes to Boulder with some reason for optimism.
The Cougars defeated rival Washington on Saturday. They also come in looking for a bit of redemption after giving away a win against Colorado on Jan. 8 in Spokane, Wash. Despite playing without star DaVonte Lacy, the Cougars lost to the Buffs by just one, 71-70, in overtime.
"They played their hearts out that game," Johnson said. "I give them all the credit, and they just beat Washington, which we lost to, so they have all the confidence in the world coming in here."
Lacy, who leads the Cougars with 17.1 points per game, missed six consecutive games with a rib injury. He returned for Saturday's game against Washington and posted 10 points in 33 minutes. It wasn't an electrifying return, but Boyle said he sees a difference in the Cougars with Lacy on the court.
"They're much better; much more versatile," Boyle said.
Without Lacy, the Cougars had several players, including freshman Que Johnson and senior forward D.J. Shelton, pick up the slack. Sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew had the best game of his career in the first meeting with CU, scoring 24 points.
"They had some guys step up into bigger roles when Lacy went out and now that Lacy is back, I think when they start hitting on all cylinders, they're as talented as anybody," Boyle said.
Washington State was effective in slowing the pace against CU a month ago, but Boyle believes this game will go at a quicker pace with Lacy in the lineup.
"I don't sense that they're slowing it down or taking the air out of it as much, especially now that Lacy's back, as they maybe did before," Boyle said. "When we were up there, they were using the whole shot clock and they were going to slow the thing down. I didn't get the sense that they played that way against Washington.
"I think with Lacy back, they're a lot more confident team offensively."
That's fine with Boyle, who likes to see his team play fast.
"We're going to play our game," he said. "We're going to push the tempo and push the pace as much as we can and use the altitude to our advantage."
Change at guard?
Freshman Jaron Hopkins has started the past five games at point guard for CU, ever since junior Spencer Dinwiddie went out with a season-ending knee injury.
Hopkins has struggled, however, and with backup point guard Xavier Talton coming off a big game against Utah, Boyle was asked if there might be a different starting lineup Wednesday.
"We've talked about doing something different," Boyle said.
Then, he smiled.
Hopkins has averaged just 4.0 points since becoming a starter, while posting 14 turnovers and three assists. Talton had a career-high 14 points against Utah on Saturday.
Senior guard Beau Gamble, a Fairview High graduate, missed practice Tuesday with a foot injury.