Kyle Ringo
Kyle Ringo

Funny how things have changed for Askia Booker.

When the college basketball season began, fans of the Colorado program worried about Booker being smart with his shot selection. They worried he might be a defensive liability and there were games in which those concerns were valid as they have been earlier in his career.

There was even speculation that Booker would begin to lose playing time to several talented freshmen guards as the season wore on. Might he find himself back in the sixth man role? Maybe even the 7th or 8th man?

Seems pretty silly now doesn't it?

Booker suddenly has become the player Tad Boyle will rely on most the rest of the season in the wake of Spencer Dinwiddie's season-ending injury.

Some might argue that player is forward Josh Scott. CU's sophomore big man might be the team's most valuable player when it's all said and done, but Boyle relies more on Booker because he needs Booker to make sure the ball gets to Scott.

That was not a problem Saturday in a 83-62 cake-walk victory over Southern Cal, the only winless team in Pac-12 play. Booker and Scott both played a beautiful game.

Booker was exactly what Boyle needs him to be above all. Smart.

He was smart about his shot selection. He only attempted two of them in the first half and five in the game. He was smart about getting teammates such as Scott and Xavier Johnson involved early and tied his career high with six assists. He was smart about playing defense. If you missed the third block of his career in the first half against 7-footer D.J. Haley, you missed one of the best plays of Colorado's season.

If that Askia Booker shows up for every CU game the rest of the season, the Buffs will not only survive the loss of Dinwiddie and freshman Tre'Shaun Fletcher, they will thrive.

It's the second consecutive game we've seen a more mature Booker on the court. He told me after Saturday's win that he realized he was going to have to adjust his game during the Washington loss last weekend after Dinwiddie got hurt.

Booker finished the Washington game 0-for-9 with zero points. He said was forcing things and playing sloppy after learning while on the bench that day that his buddy, Dinwiddie, was pretty sure his season was over.

"Without Spencer I have a lot less room for error," Booker said. "The margin of error has decreased by a lot so I just have to be the one who is going to take care of the ball and get guys the ball when they're open. I'm going to have to play big every night."

The thing is, it was relatively easy for Booker to be as patient and unselfish as he was Saturday against a team that is clearly struggling to find its way under first-year coach Andy Enfield.

The Buffs got up big early in the game and USC never really threatened a comeback. Even Boyle noted the difference in Booker, saying he had never seen him play a game with the poise he showed Saturday.

"When Ski is efficient, we're pretty darn good," Boyle said. "I thought he was terrific."

Over the past two games, a win over USC and a loss to a very good UCLA team, Booker has made 10 of 16 shots and scored 34 points.

Booker was asked after Saturday's outing what it was like to play an entire game and only shoot five times.

"It's not that bad," he said with a smile.

The question now becomes whether Boyle can rely on Booker to be the same player when the Buffs are trailing by 10 on the road against a much better opponent. Booker might be tempted ... make that Booker will be tempted to take matters into his own hands and shoot the Buffs back into it.

We're likely to find out Thursday if he can show the same composure when the Buffs play at No. 1 Arizona.

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Kyle Ringo at ringok@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/KyleRingo