With starting guard Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie combining to shoot 5-for-19 from the field and reserve guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher out due to injury, there was room for another guard to step up for No. 20 Colorado in its’ Pac-12 opener against Oregon State on Thursday night. With the Beavers being led by high-scoring guard Roberto Nelson and welcoming back Eric Moreland, who was suspended for the first 12 games of the season, they represented quite the test for Tad Boyle’s team.
Fortunately for the Buffaloes, freshman guard Jaron Hopkins snapped out of a four-game slump to score 13 points in their 64-58 win. One of three Buffaloes to score 13 points on the night (Booker and Josh Scott being the others), Hopkins made five of his eight shots from the field while also blocking two shots. The game represented a departure from his production in the four games prior for Hopkins, as he shot a combined 4-for-16 from the field and scored ten points in the four games after his ten-point outing in a win over Colorado State on December 3.
Without Fletcher he and Xavier Talton, who had a key offensive rebound late in the second half, were the two perimeter reserves against Oregon State and Hopkins provided some much-needed production off the bench with both teams struggling offensively.
Colorado shot just 38.2% from the field but that was better than the Beavers, who made 37.5% of their attempts on the night. The combination of defense and an improved effort on the boards in the second half were major factors in Colorado’s victory, and looking ahead to their game against N0. 10 Oregon Hopkins’ output was key as well. Given the number of weapons that Oregon has on the perimeter, the Buffaloes will need their guards to be productive offensively while playing also well defensively if they’re to move to 2-0 in conference play.
“I’ve known that we’re capable of it,” Boyle said of his team’s defensive effort after Thursday’s game. “We just haven’t completely bought in, but tonight, we did and we’re going to need that kind of effort on Sunday again because Oregon is very explosive from a lot of
different positions. I think they’re the deepest team in our league in terms of talent, productive talent.”
Colorado isn’t as deep as Oregon, and that makes the production of a player like Hopkins even more important on Sunday. Hopkins’ point total against Oregon State may not look like a big deal, but if he can maintain that positive momentum it would be an important development for Colorado.