Johnson leads CU to 76-53 win over No. 19 Oregon
- Article by: PAT GRAHAM
- Associated Press
- March 7, 2013 - 11:49 PM
BOULDER, Colo. - Spencer Dinwiddie has been defying his coach's orders and looking at bracketology projections — in the middle of class, even.
The swift Colorado guard just can't help studying the reports, wondering what seed his team might draw. He thinks the Buffaloes have proven they belong in the NCAA tournament, especially after a 76-53 win over No. 19 Oregon on Thursday night.
The Buffaloes (20-9, 10-7 Pac-12) improved to 4-2 against Top 25 teams this season. They even dismantled the Ducks while playing without the nation's leading rebounder, Andre Roberson, who sat out with a viral illness.
Surely, that's good enough to get the Buffs in, right?
Don't bank on anything just yet. Colorado coach Tad Boyle certainly won't.
He remembers all too clearly two years ago when he thought the Buffs were a lock to make the tournament, only to be left out. The sting of that disappointment has him looking only at the task at hand — a game against Oregon State on Saturday to close out the regular season and then the conference tournament.
As for whether his team has done enough to impress the selection committee, Boyle will never think his team has done enough until he sees Colorado in the field.
"Wish I could say yes," Boyle said. "All I know is obviously our body of work is much better this year than it was two years ago. I still feel badly for that team two years ago. I've talked about it with the guys ... all those guys were in my living room when that day occurred.
"It's important we finish strong."
No one realizes that more than the Ducks (23-7, 12-5), who were thwarted in their bid for an outright conference title.
Now, they've fallen into a first-place tie with UCLA, but the Ducks hold the tiebreaker after beating the Bruins in their only meeting in January.
Oregon has a chance to wrap up at least a share of its first league crown since 2002 — along with the No. 1 seed for the Pac-12 tournament — with a win at Utah on Saturday.
"We have to bounce back quickly," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "We still have half a championship to play for."
Freshman Xavier Johnson stepped up in Roberson's absence, scoring a career-high 22 points on a nearly perfect night. Johnson hit all seven of his shots, including three 3-pointers. His only miss was a free throw, finishing 5 of 6 from the line.
"Trying step my game up with Andre out," Johnson said.
He was far from alone. After all, the Buffs were without Roberson's 11.5 rebounds and 10.8 points a game.
Little-used backups Xavier Talton and Jeremy Adams played big minutes as they helped pick up the slack in Roberson's absence. Adams' thunderous dunk early in the second half gave the Buffs a 52-29 lead and brought the capacity crowd to its feet. So loud were the fans that Oregon players went on playing right through an official's whistle for a timeout.
Moments after play resumed, Shane Harris-Tunks crumbled to the floor after being bumped by Waverly Austin, who drew a flagrant foul. Dinwiddie made both free throws.
From there, the Buffs cruised to the victory as they reached the 20-win mark for the seventh time in school history, including three straight seasons under Boyle.
Colorado beat Oregon 48-47 last month, snapping the Ducks' 20-game home-court winning streak. This was the Buffs' second sweep of a league foe this season, taking two from Stanford as well.
Roberson was reduced to the role of spectator, clapping on the bench at his team's high-energy performance as he missed just his third start since his freshman year. Even without Roberson, the Buffs still outrebounded the Ducks by a 38-35 margin.
"We all just tried to pitch in," said Dinwiddie, who finished with 17 points. "When Andre goes out, we lose 11 points and 11 rebounds. We knew 11 points and 11 rebounds had to come from someplace else."
Boyle isn't sure how long Roberson might be sidelined.
No Roberson actually distracted Ducks forward Arsalan Kazemi.
"Kind of messed up my focus, because I was really ready for Roberson to play and he sat out," said Kazemi, who finished with 10 points.
The Ducks had a week off after beating Oregon State to close out a 17-2 campaign at home this season. The break was especially beneficial for freshman guard Damyean Dotson, who fell hard to the court against the Beavers and had to be carried off the court with a hip injury.
Dotson was held to five points against CU.
The Ducks couldn't find any sort of offensive rhythm, shooting just 37.5 percent from the floor and going 9 of 22 from the free-throw line.
"Obviously there's pressure, we want to win the Pac-12 and that was in reach for us," E.J. Singler said. "We just played terrible tonight, bottom line."
The Buffaloes may have played their best game of the season, with Broncos boss John Elway sitting courtside, no less.
Maybe now, when Dinwiddie checks out the latest bracketology reports in class, CU will be moving up.
"It would be a lie to say we wouldn't think about it like that," Dinwiddie said. "At the same token, we try to win the next game. We have to follow through with what Coach preaches."
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