GAME NOTES: A pair of teams hoping to end two-game losing streaks meet in California on Wednesday night, as the Colorado Buffaloes visit the Stanford Cardinal in a Pac-12 Conference clash at Maples Pavilion.
Colorado dropped decisions to third-ranked Arizona (88-61) and at Utah (75-64) in its last two games. The Buffaloes had won five of six games prior to those setback, and are still a solid 20-9 overall, including a 9-7 mark in league play, which has them tied with Stanford and California, their last two opponents of the regular season.
Stanford took a trip to the desert for its most recent duels, but fell in consecutive games to Arizona State (76-64) and Arizona (79-66). The Cardinal had also won five of six before the slide, but they are 18-10 overall compared to the 20-win campaign Colorado has already earned. They will finish off the regular season at home against Utah.
A year ago, Colorado swept the season series with Stanford, ending a five-game win streak for the Cardinal in the series, which has gone their way more often than not (9-5). This is the only meeting this season, barring a matchup in the Pac-12 Tournament.
In their recent loss to Utah, the Buffaloes were beat up on the inside, en route to a 38-22 scoring deficit in the paint. Colorado was also outscored (19-12) off turnovers by the Utes, who knocked down 59.6 percent of their total shots. Meanwhile, the Buffs only hit on 39.6 percent from the floor.
Colorado is not an overly productive offensive team, although that is partially a symptom of losing leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie (14.7 ppg) in January to injury. Still, the Buffaloes are scoring just 73.2 ppg on 44.3 percent from the floor, ranking 10th in the Pac-12 in each category. Josh Scott (14.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and Askia Booker (14 ppg) have taken over as the leading offensive threats, although Booker has been an inconsistent shooter (.390 FG percentage). Scott has been the more reliable threat and is coming off a team-high 17 points against Utah. Xavier Johnson (11.7 ppg, 6 rpg), who had 10 points against the Utes, is also a key contributor.
Stanford was also at a disadvantage on the inside in its last outing, as it was on the short end of a 40-31 margin on the boards against Arizona. The Cardinal was also outscored, 30-24, in the paint and by a 16-0 count on the fast break. Josh Huestis did score 22 points and collect 12 rebounds, but it simply wasn't enough.
Dwight Powell's issues against Arizona were a major reason not only for the loss, but the Cardinal's weakness on the interior. Powell (14.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.6 apg) is one of the most skilled frontcourt players in the conference, but he labored his way to 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting against the Wildcats. Leading scorer Chasson Randle (18.5 ppg) wasn't up to his normal standards in the loss either, finishing with 14 points, but on only eight field goal attempts. Huestis (11.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2 bpg) is not accustomed to being the leading scorer, although he is certainly a capable player at both ends of the floor. Anthony Brown (13.8 ppg) provides further depth.
The key in this contest will be how well Randle can perform. If he gets back to his normal level of production, the Cardinal will have a decided advantage in the backcourt, while Huestis and Powell team up to bully Scott down low.
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