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The Buffaloes split their first two games without Dinwiddie, losing to UCLA and beating Southern California after the junior sustained a season-ending left knee injury against Washington on Jan. 12.

Arizona was a much stiffer challenge without Dinwiddie, Colorado’s scoring and assists leader.

The nation’s top-ranked team for seven straight weeks, Arizona entered the game fifth in scoring defense (56.7 points) and shooting percentage against (37 percent) and was 22nd at defending 3-pointers (29 percent).

Colorado needed someone to step up and no one was able to do it early against Arizona’s relentless pressure.

Barely able to get passes off much less good shots, the Buffaloes missed their first five shots and had four turnovers in the opening six minutes.

Arizona also missed its first five shots, but started dropping them in from all over, building a quick 18-4 lead.

The Buffaloes settled down for a little bit, cutting the lead to six with a 10-2 run.

All that seemed to do was make the Wildcats play harder.

Ratcheting the defensive pressure back up, Arizona hounded the Buffaloes into more missed shots and turnovers, leading to breakouts and 3-pointers at the other end.

Starting with a 12-2 run, the Wildcats built the halftime lead to 39-24, holding Colorado to 8-of-27 shooting while forcing nine turnovers. Johnson had 12 at the half and Ashley nine.

“We do what we’ve been doing, just focusing on the process of Arizona basketball and that’s just a little glimpse of what we can do,” Gordon said.

Colorado had a little more success shooting to start the second half, hitting three of its first four shots.

Problem was, the Buffaloes couldn’t stop the Wildcats.

Arizona hit its first six shots, including one by Ashley that bounced off Scott and into the basket and a reverse dunk off a spin move by Gordon that put the Wildcats up 51-31.

The Wildcats made 12 of 22 shots in the second half to prevent Colorado from cutting the lead under double digits.

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