When it was announced on Monday that point guard Spencer Dinwiddie would be lost for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, No. 21 Colorado had to figure out a way to account for the production lost as a result. The Buffaloes’ leader and most talented player, Dinwiddie was averaging 14.7 points and 3.8 assists per game before suffering the injury late in the first half of Colorado’s 71-54 loss at Washington.
In the immediate aftermath Colorado did not look good in Seattle, but the struggles were to be expected given the sudden nature of Dinwiddie’s injury. With three days of practice in preparation for a game at No. 25 UCLA, Colorado’s adjustment to the loss of Dinwiddie would be better judged following their game against the Bruins. And outside of Askia Booker and Josh Scott, the Buffaloes struggled mightily in their 69-56 defeat.
Booker was one of the players Colorado needed to step up with Dinwiddie no longer available, and that was in regards to his shot selection as much as it was his scoring, and against UCLA the junior took quality shots for much of the night. Booker scored 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, with Scott adding 19 on 7-for-12 shooting to go along with nine rebounds. However faced with a team that has as many offensive options as UCLA, Colorado needed a third scorer to step up and that didn’t happen.
Remove Booker and Scott’s numbers and the remaining Buffaloes shot 6-for-27 from the floor, with Xavier Johnson and Jaron Hopkins shooting 1-for-6 respectively. Some credit should be given to an improved UCLA defense, with the Bruins using both zone and man-to-man looks on Thursday night. But even with that being the case players have to step up and make plays, and that simply did not happen for Colorado.
Had it happened Colorado could have picked up its first win over UCLA as a member of the Pac-12, especially when taking into account Kyle Anderson’s struggles. One of the midseason favorites to win Pac-12 Player of the Year, Anderson dealt with first half foul trouble and finished the game with six points, five rebounds and five assists. Not the best night for the 6-foot-9 sophomore, but the good news for head coach Steve Alford is that other players stepped up.
Norman Powell, coming off of an 11-point night in UCLA’s win over Arizona State, scored 19 points against Colorado and accounted for four of the Bruins’ 12 steals. Joining him in double figures were Jordan Adams, who accounted for 14 points and 13 rebounds despite shooting 4-for-15 from the field, and David Wear (11 points, seven rebounds). With their most important player not at his best UCLA found production in other areas, and that would prove to be the difference on Thursday.
That’s what Colorado will need to do if they’re to remain on track for another NCAA tournament bid sans Dinwiddie. Prior to his injury Colorado could afford off nights from a Xavier Johnson of Jaron Hopkins; that isn’t the case now.