BOULDER, Colo. — Colorado’s loss at Washington last month altered the makeup of the team and for a time the course of the season. The Buffaloes showed in the rematch that they’re still a team to be reckoned with.
Xavier Johnson scored a career-high 27 points, tops among three Colorado players with at least 20 points, as the Buffaloes routed Washington 91-65 on Sunday night.
Josh Scott tied his career best with 21 points and Askia Booker added 20, giving Colorado its first trio of 20 point scorers in the same game since Kal Bay (21), Dominique Coleman (20) and Richard Roby (20) did it against Oklahoma State on Feb. 3, 2007.
“That was probably as complete a performance by our team as we’ve had in a long long time,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “When you defend and you rebound and you shoot the ball the way we did, it’s a recipe for a runaway win.”
The victory was the third straight for Colorado (18-6, 7-4 Pac-12) after 1-4 stretch that began with a 71-54 loss at Washington on Jan. 12 in which the Buffaloes lost star point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to a season-ending knee injury.
Tre’Shaun Fletcher, a key reserve, suffered a knee injury in the same game.
“We should have beaten them up there,” Scott said. “We took it to them this game. We thought we were better than we showed up there. We proved it tonight.”
Boyle said the team is coming together anew as players adjust to new or expanded roles.
“We certainly miss Spencer and nothing’s changed as far as our thoughts about him,” Boyle said. “I think Askia Booker has kind of taken on that mentality as a facilitator. Xavier Talton has stepped in and given us good minutes. Xavier Johnson has stepped his game up. We’ve made the transition. Now the test for us is to go on the road, and prove we’re a competitive team in this conference.”
Johnson also had 10 rebounds for Colorado, which has won 15 of its 16 home games this season. It’s the second most home wins in a season by Colorado behind the Buffaloes’ 2011-12 team, which finished with 18 wins at the Coors Events Center.
“Colorado, wow. They came out on fire, shots contested, not contested,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “They were just knocking shots down and knocked us back on our heels right away. I thought coming into the game we were pretty focused and ready to play but their ability to hit shots early pushed us back a little bit. They did a nice job coming in to play.”
C.J. Wilcox, the Pac 12’s second leading scorer who had 31 points, on 7-of-12 shooting from 3-point range, in the Huskies’ victory last month, was off target in the rematch. He finished with eight points on 2-of-10 shooting from the floor, including 0 for 7 from 3-point range.
“They definitely played with a chip on their shoulder after what happened up in Seattle,” said Wilcox, who was in the defensive shadow of Johnson and Jaron Hopkins all night. “They were able to get going early. I knew they had a lot of players that play around Spencer really well. I think that most of them stepped up tonight and created offense for themselves as well as their teammates.”
The Huskies were without Desmond Simmons for most of the first half after he took an inadvertent elbow to his head battling for a rebound. The blow opened a cut on his forehead and trainers helped him off the floor and into the locker room for treatment. He returned in the second half with a bandage covering the cut.
It was the third consecutive loss for Washington (13-11, 5-6), which was led by Nigel Williams-Goss with 15 points.
Up by 17 at halftime, Colorado went in front 68-50 on a breakaway dunk by Hopkins and put the game away with a 10-0 run that stretched its lead to 83-57 with 4:03 remaining. Johnson fueled the surge with a 3-pointer and fastbreak layup.
Setting the tone from the outset, the Buffaloes scored the game’s first 10 points and had an 11-3 flurry over the last four minutes of the first half to take a 48-33 lead. Talton closed the surge with a jumper just before the buzzer sounded, giving the Buffaloes their biggest output of the season in the first half and the most ever in a Pac-12 game.