Playing in his home town, just minutes from the courts where the human jitterbug learned the game, Ski went off for 43 to almost single-handedly drag the Buffaloes across the finish line for their first road win in eight tries. Colorado needed every one of those points, as USC was holding on for dear life on their home floor. Locked in a war of attrition, the two teams would battle on through three overtimes and six player disqualifications, stretching nerves and rosters thin. CU, however, had the trump card - Booker - and kept playing it at just the right moments to secure a 98-94 win. Finally, the sighs uttered across BuffNation were ones of satisfied exhaustion, rather than frustration.
|Ski would not be denied on Thursday. From: the BDC|
About the only thing that could slow Booker down was a cheap shot from brutish USC center Nikola Jovanovic. On a fast break with eight minutes to play in the second half, the galoot threw a shoulder and a leg into Ski, sending the point guard flying. While he got up, and only sported a bruise after the game, the assault had its desired effect. The spark plug was shaken, failing to score down the stretch, and committing a trio of turnovers in the immediate aftermath. As a result, Colorado as a whole would go on a nearly 15-minute long drought without a made field goal. The refs, particularly clueless in a game marred by questionable officiating, only awarded a common foul. Askia would have the final laugh, however.
|Booker has never been better than he was in overtime. From: CUBuffs.com|
It's a little unfair, but Ski's 43 overshadows some encouraging efforts from his teammates. Down two starters, with Jaron Hopkins joining Josh Scott on the inactive list with a bum ankle, the team needed others to step up. Xavier Johnson returned to the lineup for the first time in weeks to chip in 12/5, including the game-tying three pointer in the final minute of the first overtime. Freshman forward Tory Miller, who has been performing exceptionally well over the last few weeks, submitted his first career double-double (11/13), which featured five huge points in the final frame of overtime to supplement the Ski-splosion. Without them, and the little efforts chipped in by the other six Buffs who saw the court, the outcome would've been completely different.
|Xavier Johnson returned to the court, and played a major role in extending the action. From: the Post|
This has the potential to become a massive win. Beyond just the cancellation of the road losing streak and Ski's bonkers night, the boost to overall team confidence cannot be denied. The Buffs, as a team, showed more grit and determination on Thursday than I've seen from them all season. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop, and the untimely the loss to follow, but, time after time, Colorado fought through it (even that damned 15-minute field goal drought). If they can bring that same determination with them into tonight's meeting with UCLA, this road trip has the potential to become a season-saving moment. Let's see what the Buffs have for an encore.
Tip-off from Pauley Pavilion, new court and all, is set for 8:30pm this evening. Pac-12 Networks, complete with BILL WALTON, has the pictures. 850 KOA, complete with MARK JOHNSON, has the sound.
For reference, my preview from the first game can be found here.
Click below for the preview...