BOULDER - That effort and intensity displayed by the Colorado men's basketball team in last week's EA Sports Maui Invitational?

It accompanied the Buffaloes back to the mainland. Confidence made the trip home, too.

With coach Jeff Bzdelik returning to the bench after leaving the holiday tournament to be with his ill mother in Chicago, the Buffs overran and ultimately out-worked San Francisco 78-54 on Tuesday night at the Coors Events Center.

The Buffs, improving to 5-2, play at Oregon State Friday night as part of the Big 12-Pac 10 Hardwood Series. USF, which lost Sunday in double overtime (91-75) at Colorado State, dropped to 2-5 after opening 2-0.

CU junior Cory Higgins led all scorers Tuesday night with 22 points and was one of four Buffs players in double figures. Freshman Alec Burks added 12 while senior Dwight Thorne II and junior Marcus Relphorde, who was celebrating his 21st birthday, contributed 10 each.

It was the seventh consecutive game that CU has scored 70 or more points, as well as the seventh straight game CU has had four players reach double figures.

"I know offense is a variable," Bzdelik said. "But we've got some guys who can score."

Bzdelik also has some guys who can pass and find the open man. The Buffs finished with an assist-to-turnover ratio - 20-6 - that Bzdelik will take every night.

"We need to continue to share the basketball and not turn it over," he said. "If you do that, you will put yourself in position to get great opportunities to score."

The Buffs started slowly, giving up nine second-chance points and trailing until the 12:33 mark when guard Nate Tomlinson capped a run of three consecutive treys - the other two were by Thorne and Higgins - and gave his team its first advantage of the night (16-15).

USF, The Sporting News' preseason pick to finish next-to-last in the West Coast Conference, and CU traded the lead for the next two possessions before Higgins asserted himself.

In a 16-2 Buffs run, the 6-foot-5 guard from Danville, Calif., scored six points as CU opened a 32-20 lead. But over the next 31/2 minutes, the Buffs got sloppy again and allowed the Dons to creep back to within five points (35-30).

Bzdelik quickly called a time out, and whatever was discussed in his huddle was taken to heart. The Buffs outscored the Dons 7-2 in the final 4:14 of the half and went to the locker room leading 42-32.

Higgins hit all six of his first-half field goal attempts - including a pair of three-pointers - and both free throw tries to finish the first 20 minutes with 16 of his total.

CU opened the second half with pressure on both ends. An 8-0 run pushed the Buffs ahead 50-32 and forced Dons coach Rex Walters, the former Kansas star, to sit his team down with a time out.

It didn't help. The Buffs got another pair of baskets from Higgins and Relphorde - they hit their first six shots of the last half - to extend their run to 12-0 before USF guard Dontae Bryant hit a free throw at 16:13 for the Dons' first points of the second half.

But by then, the Buffs had surged ahead 54-33 and, barring another lapse, appeared ready to name their margin of victory. After it went to 25 (59-34) on a trey by Burks, the Dons were all but done with about 12 minutes to play.

In the second half, said Higgins, "We basically wanted to stomp on them. In the past, we've had leads and let teams come back on us. We wanted to show that killer instinct."

The Buffs' lead never dropped below 21 points for the remainder of the game and they led by as many as 27 (74-47) in the final 31/2 minutes.

Higgins said he and his teammates wanted to return from Maui "and get accustomed to how we'd been playing (there). And we wanted to stay sharp for our fans."

Consider it done.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU