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Men's basketball notes: CU Buffs guard Julian Hammond III sidelined by knee injury

Feb. 24—After two quiet weeks on the injury front for the Colorado men's basketball team, the season-long struggles with personnel issues struck again at the start of the final homestand of the regular season.

The Buffaloes topped Utah 89-65 in a Pac-12 Conference battle on Saturday night at the CU Events Center without reserve guard Julian Hammond III, who suffered a knee injury at practice on Friday. The Buffs also weathered another injury scare when freshman Cody Williams rolled his right ankle and exited the game with 7 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the first half.

Williams returned to the lineup after halftime, and after the victory head coach Tad Boyle said medical tests revealed no structural damage with Hammond's knee. Boyle didn't offer a specific timetable for Hammond's return, but his absence is expected to be more of a short-term situation than a prolonged problem.

"His knee's sore, but the good news is the imaging was good," Boyle said. "He's in pain, but the swelling is not crazy. I'm just hoping each day gets a little bit better and better. Because he can make shots, and he gives us a guy down the stretch that has been in big games. Julian Hammond is important to this basketball team and basketball program, without a doubt."

Hammond also missed two games in early January due to a back injury. With Hammond's absence on Saturday, the Buffs have now played without at least one player from the top seven in the regular rotation — Hammond, Williams, KJ Simpson, Tristan da Silva, Eddie Lampkin Jr., J'Vonne Hadley and Luke O'Brien — in 13 of 27 games this season.

"Rawley Klingsmith might be our MVP, our trainer," Boyle said. "He's got his hands full every single day. We need to get healthy, no doubt."

The Carlson code

Boyle might soon field phone calls from Pac-12 coaching peers seeking the secret to slowing Utah standout forward Branden Carlson.

After scoring a season-low five points in Utah's home win against the Buffs three weeks ago, CU once again held Carlson in check during Saturday's win. Guarded mostly by Tristan da Silva, Carlson went 3-for-8 overall and 0-for-3 on 3-pointers. Carlson entered the game averaging 16.9 points but has suffered his two lowest-scoring games of the season against the Buffs while going a combined 5-for-18.

"We didn't play Utah not too long ago, so Utah was kind of fresh in our minds," Hadley said. "We know their personnel. That's a big thing that coach prides everything on, just knowing your personnel, knowing who's a shooter, who's a driver. We really locked in and tonight it showed."

Notable

CU received solid contributions off the bench from freshman Assane Diop, who went 2-for-4 with four points, two rebounds and two assists in just 8 minutes, 15 seconds of playing time. It was Diop's first points since he scored 10 against Oregon State on Jan. 20. ... CU's four turnovers tied for the program's lowest mark in a conference game. ... The Buffs have shot at least 50% in 15 of 27 games. It is the most 50% games for the program since CU recorded 15 in 31 games during the 2009-10 season. ... Simpson recorded his 16th 20-point game of the season, the most by any CU player since Alec Burks posted 24 20-point games in 2010-11. ... Since returning from a two-game injury absence, O'Brien has shot .615 (8-for-13) in four games.