LAS VEGAS, Nev. — When it was announced that Andre Roberson would forgo his senior season and enter the 2013 NBA Draft, it was known immediately that No. 20 Colorado’s returning front court contributors would need to raise their production. Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott were both quality players as freshmen, and in redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon the Buffaloes were adding a player who many expect to blossom into a key figure as he gains both experience and maturity.
The process of accounting for the departure of a player as valuable as Roberson can be a difficult one, but through 12 games it appears evident that Scott has taken the steps needed to be one of the Pac-12’s better interior players. In the Buffaloes’ 78-73 loss to No. 7 Oklahoma State on Saturday night Scott accounted for 20 points and 12 rebounds, tallying his fifth double-double of the season.
“[Oklahoma State] didn’t double him tonight, and when teams don’t double Josh we have to go to him because he’s an effective scorer on the low block,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said after the game, but he also lamented the lack of interior touches in the game’s first 20 minutes.
“We had 17 paint touches in the first half, and we want 50 for the game,” continued Boyle. “We weren’t getting the ball inside enough. We need to and we want to, and it was something we talked about at halftime. We did a better job of that in the second half, and we were more effective.”
It’s been said many times in basketball that the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores, but in this current period in which the best freshmen are being fitted for suits once their debut season ends that can be forgotten. Scott’s benefitted from an offseason to work on his game and strength, and the effects have been positive for him individually and for the Buffaloes as a team.
Last season Colorado ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding percentage (33.6%) and seventh in defensive rebounding percentage (69.6%), with the youth of Scott and Johnson being one reason why. Through 12 games this season the Buffaloes are third in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage (36.3%) and first in defensive rebounding percentage (78.0), with the latter percentage ranking second nationally.
Against Oklahoma State both Johnson (three points, five rebounds) and Gordon (two points, six rebounds) struggled, leaving Scott to do much of the work against the Cowboys’ big men. And if not for his performance as both a scorer and rebounder (five of his 12 rebounds came on the offensive end), it’s difficult to see a way in which Colorado would have gotten to the latter stages of the game with a chance to win.
Maybe the fact that Scott isn’t the most outwardly demonstrative player has impacted the way in which he’s been viewed this season. But if people were paying attention on Saturday night, they saw even more evidence that the sophomore big man has made significant progress in his second season in Boulder.