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Game day notes: Javon Ruffin, Bangot Dak make the most of minutes for CU Buffs

Mar. 15—LAS VEGAS — Even with Cody Williams coming off the bench in his return from injury, the Colorado men's basketball squad isn't one that leans heavily on its reserves.

Yet during the Buffaloes' win against Utah in the Pac-12 quarterfinals on Thursday night, Javon Ruffin and Bangot Dak came off the bench to provide high-quality minutes.

Ruffin only played for 4 minutes, 19 seconds, but he drained a key 3-pointer in the first half. Ruffin also delivered an assist on a 3-pointer by Tristan da Silva. With Julian Hammond III still sidelined by a knee injury, Ruffin has provided a spark recently, going 5-for-9 on 3-pointers in spot duty over the past five games.

Dak enjoyed even less playing time, getting on the floor for just 3:55, but he grabbed a rebound and landed a spot on Sports Center with an alley-oop slam from KJ Simpson.

"Ruff came in and banged a three. He didn't hesitate," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "Bangot came in and KJ found him on a roll for a dunk. I thought Assane (Diop) gave us good minutes in the first half. It's good to have Cody back in the mix. He's still kind of working himself back in there. He's not quite up to midseason form. He's still got a little rust on his game, but I thought he did some good things and played within himself.

"We're going to need our bench as this thing rolls along. I'm gaining a lot more confidence in them. That's what happens late in the year. Those young guys, they have to grow up. And they have."

Prowling the Cougars

Like Utah, the Buffs split the regular season series with Washington State. The short turnaround between games is never easy, but it's something the Cougars are doing as well, and Boyle expressed confidence in his team's ability to digest a scouting report on the fly.

"This group of players has done such a good job, pretty much all year long even back to November in our tournaments that we've been in, they digest scouting reports," Boyle said. "They're intelligent, they understand. Now, we don't always go out and execute like we're supposed to. But their understanding of what guys can do and what they can't do is really at a high level."

"Washington State is a hell of a team. We beat them shorthanded in Boulder. They weren't at their best. They got us in Pullman when we weren't at our best. I think it should be a hell of game. They've got some good players and are well-coached. It's not going to be easy, but nothing's easy in March."

CU (23-9) and Washington State (24-8) haven't met in the Pac-12 tournament since 2020, when the Cougars handed the Buffs what remains their only opening-game loss in a conference tournament in 14 seasons under Boyle. It was one of the final games completed in all of college basketball before the onset of the COVID pandemic shut down the remainder of the season.

Notable

CU has won seven consecutive games for the first time since a 7-0 start to the 2019-20 season. The Buffs are seeking their first eight-game win streak since an 11-game win streak early in the 2015-16 season. ... Organizers of the Naismith Trophy Player of the Year honor on Friday released its list of 10 semifinalist. CU's KJ Simpson, on the 30-player Naismith midseason team, didn't make the cut. Arizona's Caleb Love was the only Pac-12 player on the list. ... The Buffs are seeking their third berth in the Pac-12 title game. They won the championship in their Pac-12 tourney debut in 2012 and lost the 2021 final against Oregon State.