In a thrilling game of back and forth between two tough Pac-12 teams, the Colorado Buffaloes held on to defeat the Utah Utes 79-75 in overtime at home after going down by as much as 12 points in the second half.
With this win, the Cardiac Buffs advanced their Pac-12 record to 5-4 and their overall record to 16-6. Utah now stands at 14-7 and 3-6.
"I think that we knew coming in, especially after our last road trip, that we lost our identity a little bit," Scott said. "We weren't rebounding, we weren't playing defense. I think we're just back to where we were, and that's a really good thing."
Sophomore guard Xavier Talton agreed, saying that a win of this fashion helped the team build their confidence again.
"I think (the win) is a really big thing," Talton said. "We went 1-4 for the past five games, and coming off this win, I think it's going to give us a confidence boost. And I think that going from here forward we can only get better."
Out of the five, Talton was the only bench player to contribute double-digit points.
"(I was) just playing smarter," Talton said. "When you come into the game with two fouls, you got to realize that you can't be as aggressive but you still have to be somewhat aggressive on the defensive end and you still have to play with your principles."
In addition to that, two Buffs picked up double-doubles. Sophomore forward Johnson picked up his second of the season by adding 10 rebounds on top of his 11 points. Sophomore forward Scott also added his 10th double-double of the season by adding 10 rebounds of his own.
Junior guard Booker was just shy of a triple-double. He scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out a career-high seven assists to help pace the Buffs on offense.
On top of that, the Buffs continued to show their dominance on the rebounding end by grabbing 42 compared to Utah's 24. They did not, however, handle the ball well. They turned it over 15 times, but forced 12 Utah turnovers as well.
"Our defense kept us in the game, I thought Eli's [Stalzer] steal and transition basket was big, Xavier Talton hit a big three in the corner and then another pull up at the end of the shot clock," head coach Tad Boyle said. "Those were some big time shots from guys who normally don't play as much, we've been talking about guys filling in and I thought those two guys were terrific tonight."
For the game, the Buffs shot 25-56 from the field (44.6%), 6-18 from the three-point range (33.3%), and went 23-30 from the charity stripe (76.7%). Utah, on the other hand, shot 27-63 from the field (42.9%), 11-24 from the three-point range (45.8%), and were 10-11 from the line (90.9%).
Throughout the first half, the Buffs were definitely tested.
They went up by as much as seven points two separate times, but as soon as the score read 26-24 with the Buffaloes on top near the five minute mark, Utah went on a 9-0 run to gain a seven-point lead.
By the end of the half, the Buffs couldn't cut the deficit down and went into the break with the Utes leading 37-31.
For the half, the Buffs shot well. They made 12-24 field goals (50.0%), 3-8 three-point shots (37.5%), and went 4-6 from the foul line (66.7%). Their ball handling skills, however, were what cost them during the half. They turned the ball over 10 times, which resulted in 17 Utah points.
The Utes also shot fairly well during the half. They went 12-28 from the field (42.9%), 5-9 from behind the arc (55.6%), and were a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. They handled the ball much better after only turning it over three times for five Buffaloes points.
The second half started out shaky for the Buffs. Just three minutes in, the Utes outscored them 10-4 to gain a 12-point lead. Then the Buffs kicked it into gear. Over the next six minutes, they outshot the Utes 12-2 to tie the game up at 49.
From there on out, the game went back and forth. By the end of the night, the score was tied seven times and the lead changed five times.
With 19 seconds left in the game, the Buffs held a slight edge over the Utes, 65-62. But when the clock read 0.6 seconds, Utah's Brandon Taylor hit a huge three the tie the game up at 65.
This game was going into overtime.
Talton hit a three right off the bat in OT to give the Buffs control of the game again, and they never lost it after that. The Buffs battled in the extra five minutes to defeat the Utes 79-75.
"I think that the big things were that first, we didn't turn the ball over," Scott said. "That was big. I think that was one of our major problems in the first half. Second and third, we were getting big rebounds and we were getting stops, and I think that's why you saw us come back and win."
Boyle emphasized the importance of this win after Colorado's away stretch in Arizona.
"Holy cow we needed that one, we needed that one bad," Boyle said. "I think our guys really responded tonight, especially how we fell down by 12 in the second half and we fought back, I just loved the way our guys competed tonight.
The Buffs return to their home court on Wednesday, Feb. 5 to take on the Washington State Huskies at 7:30 p.m.
"The future of Colorado basketball is bright and I love it when people count us out," Boyle said after the game. "We need to play with a chip on our shoulder, we need to do it at home and we have to do it on the road, there's a lot of basketball to be played."