BOULDER, Colo. — Freshman forward Aaron Gordon rebounded from the worst game of his young career at Arizona with his best one yet.
Gordon scored a career-high 23 points, guard Nick Johnson had 20 and the No. 4 Wildcats routed the Colorado Buffaloes 88-61 on Saturday night.
“I just got into a good rhythm,” said Gordon, who was held to a season low three points while battling foul trouble in Arizona’s 67-63 overtime win on Wednesday night at Utah. “Teammates were finding me. I just felt relaxed and in the flow of the game.”
Arizona coach Sean Miller said Gordon learned from his experience at Utah.
“He was terrific tonight,” Miller said. “A couple of things didn’t go his way at Utah and, uncharacteristically, he hung onto that and it affected his game. That was a learning moment for him.
“Sometimes, you forget he’s only a freshman, so he’s working through things like all 18-year-olds. No question, it was his best game at Arizona.”
Center Kaleb Tarczewski added 13 points for Arizona (25-2, 12-2 Pac-12), which shot a blistering 60.3 percent from the field, nearly double Colorado’s shooting percentage of .327.
“I think this game, we put it all together tonight,” said guard T.J. McConnell, who fueled Arizona’s offense with 10 assists in addition to scoring nine points.
“We jumped on them in the first half. They made their run like we knew they would, but we kept it going in the second half. We shot the ball well. We pretty much did everything well, especially defense. That’s what we pride ourselves on and we did a good job of that tonight.”
Forward Josh Scott had 18 points and guard Askia Booker 10 for Colorado (20-9, 9-6), which lost at home for only the second time this season.
The victory was the first for Arizona in Boulder since defeating the Buffaloes 91-76 on Dec. 3, 1973. It was also the first time the Wildcats had won at Colorado in three trips since the Buffaloes joined the Pac-12 Conference three years ago.
Colorado missed its first 14 shots from the field and did not make a field goal until 9:50 remained in the first half, the longest drought to start a game this season.
“They contested almost every shot,” Booker said. “Some defenses, you can break down, get to the paint and kick it out. But every time we kicked the ball out, it seems like they were right on you.”
Colorado, though, trailed by six at the break and pulled to 37-33 on layup by forward Dustin Thomas with 17:05 remaining in the game before Arizona reasserted itself with a dominating stretch.
Guards Gabe York and Johnson hit successive 3-pointers around two free throws by forward Xavier Johnson as the Wildcats stretched their lead to 49-39 with 13:40 left.
The teams briefly traded scores before Arizona put together a backbreaking 11-0 run that boosted the Wildcats’ lead to 62-41 with 9:50 left.
The flurry included two dunks by Gordon and a 3-pointer by guard Elliott Pitts and effectively crushed any thoughts of a comeback by Colorado, which faded the rest of the way.
“They’re the best defensive team in the Pac-12, so it happens,” Scott said.
The Buffaloes had a tough night shooting in the face of Arizona’s relentless defense and rebounding.
Colorado’s first field goal did not come until 10:10 into the game when guard Jaron Hopkins connected from 3-point range after Arizona had pulled out to a 22-5 lead.
The Wildcats built their advantage by working their inside game, getting 14 of their first-half points inside the paint.
After trailing by as many as 17 points earlier, the Buffaloes pulled to 31-25 when Booker, who missed his first seven shots from the field, hit a baseline jumper at the first-half buzzer.
NOTES: Arizona won its third straight against Colorado, including a 69-57 victory at the McKale Center on Jan. 23, when the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the country. … Colorado senior C Ben Mills and senior G Beau Gamble played their final regular-season home after being honored in pregame ceremonies. … The longest previous field goal drought by Colorado was in the first meeting with Arizona when the Buffaloes did not make
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