• Eugene Tanner / Associated Press

    Colorado guard Askia Booker drives to the basket to score two of his game-high 27 points Monday in the Buffs' 82-68 victory against DePaul.

  • Eugene Tanner / Associated Press

    Colorado's Dustin Thomas, left, tries to get a shot off against the defensive pressure of DePaul forward Forrest Robinson in the first half Monday.



Fast break

What went right: The Buffs were aggressive from the start of the game, and then played an efficient second half to roll past DePaul.

What went wrong: The Buffs struggled to close out the first half, being outscored 29-19 in the final 13 minutes.

Star of the game: Askia Booker. The senior had 27 points, six assists and six rebounds.

What’s next?: The Buffs will face George Washington in the semifinals on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. MST.

HONOLULU — The last time Askia Booker played in a regular-season tournament, he led the Colorado Buffaloes to a championship and came away with the Most Valuable Player award.

Colorado’s senior guard would love to repeat that feat this week.

“Yeah, of course,” he said of going for MVP honors again. “I’m not going to say no, but I want to win the games most importantly.”

On Monday, Booker and the Buffs got off to a great start as they routed DePaul 82-68 in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.

CU (7-3) will play George Washington (7-3) in the semifinals Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. MST.

“I was proud of our resolve, our competitiveness and guys made plays,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said.

Nobody made more plays than Booker, who finished with a game-high 27 points — including 14-for-14 at the free-throw line — six assists and six rebounds.

“I love playing against new competition; guys they consider ‘bigger, stronger, faster,’ ” said Booker, who was MVP of the 2012 Charleston Classic. “This is one of the teams that they don’t let you get anything easy, but I think I took care of business tonight.”

Booker tied his career high in points and hit the six-assist mark for the ninth time in his career (CU is 7-2 in those games).

“Ski’s always a smart player,” junior Xavier Johnson said. “He’s a senior and he knows what he needs to do to win. Sometimes he takes bad shots because he feels like it’s his job to run the team and get us going, but I think he did great today.”

So did Johnson, who was energetic and active from the start and finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Wesley Gordon (11 points, five rebounds) and Jaron Hopkins (10 points, two assists) also scored in double figures for the Buffs.

“I feel we need two players who need to step up each game,” Johnson said. “If we get a third in there, then we’ll be awesome. Today we had Jaron step up big for us, we had Wesley even step up big for us, too.”

With Booker and Johnson leading the way, the Buffs were efficient on offense and defense against the Blue Demons (6-5), especially in the second half.

“I loved the pace of (the game),” Boyle said. “I love teams that run. The second half, especially, it was like a track meet. We got some really easy baskets in transition. We knew if we could get stops and we can get out and run, that was an advantage we had in transition, I thought.”

Booker was the key to that. He had 15 of his points in the second half, but most importantly he had five of his assists, many of those on the run. Three of his second-half assists resulted in Hopkins dunks.

Booker was also aggressive in driving the lane, as he tied his career high with 14 free-throw attempts. He became just the fourth player in CU history to hit at least 14 free throws in a game without a miss.

“I feel very comfortable (in the offense), especially if I get to the free-throw line,” he said. “If I get there, it’ll make my shots flow eventually and it’ll get my blood flowing seeing the ball go in the basket.”

CU opened the game on a 17-4 run. DePaul closed to within three, 36-33, at the break, but then CU opened the second half on a 14-4 run. The lead reached 18 at one point and never dipped below the 10-point mark in the final 16 minutes.

“It’s always important to jump on teams early,” Johnson said. “And, teams like this when they’re playing well, everything will change; their defense will be better and everything, so we couldn’t let them get into a rhythm and start scoring a lot. We contained them, we shot a lot of free throws and made them and we were able to win.”

Now, the Buffs get a tougher test against a GW team that routed Ohio, 77-49, on Monday. The Colonials came into Monday ranked 45th by

“We watched a little bit of the second half (of GW’s win against Ohio),” Booker said. “They play a lot of zone and we’ll have to prepare for that. We got a little taste of that today with DePaul, so I think we’ll be ready.”

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or