After one of those rare occasions when he saw his Colorado basketball team turn in a complete game, Tad Boyle was prepared only to savor the moment - not the rounding of any corners.
On Friday, starting with Andre Roberson's bravo board work, there were plenty of moments to savor from the previous night's 75-54 rout of Stanford. The Buffaloes delighted their coach with a full 40-minute win in which they exhibited the rebounding - 'Dre' collected 20 of CU's 48 - and defense that Boyle wants nightly. There also was overall toughness against a physical opponent, an element that's been lacking.
But as for that game offering a sign that poorer past efforts won't be repeated, Boyle won't go there. Asked how many more wins it would take to persuade him to say the Buffs had turned a corner, he laughed and answered "(win) 11 more games . . . I don't know the answer to that. I feel like defensively we've got three great outings in a row. But UCLA shot 52 percent on us (in a 78-75 CU loss), so doesn't mean I'm going to stop worrying about it."
Still, with California visiting the Coors Events Center on Sunday (1:30 p.m., FSN; KOA AM 850), the Buffs appear to be evolving into the type of outfit Boyle wants. In their last three games - two of them 'W's - they have outrebounded all three opponents and kept each under 40 percent shooting from the field.
That's Boyle's recipe for winning. Couple it with the intensity the Buffs showed against the Cardinal, keep that tough edge intact, and they might be onto something as February approaches.
"That's the challenge," Boyle said. "We talked about putting a 40-minute game together - that's hard enough. Once you've done that, you've got to put a season together. Maybe I'm getting greedy, but that's got to be our challenge, that we play with that edge, that emotion and passion every night.
"Sometime you're going to play with it and the other team's going to play with it . . . that's when you get into college basketball games that are pretty darn fun to watch, when you're going toe-to-toe. You might not win all those games, but this place will be packed like it was because they know they're going to get a show every time they come to see us play."
Thursday night's crowd of 11,212 - the fourth-largest in CEC history - was loud and appreciative. Roberson's 20 rebounds matched a personal best. He set an early example for teammates with his relentless work. "I expect that from Andre every game," freshman forward Xavier Johnson said. "He's a great rebounder and a great player. I'm used to that."
But for the first time in his career, Roberson, a 6-7 junior, ranks first nationally in rebounding at 11.9 a game. Getting to the top spot, he said, was "definitely a personal goal from beginning. I just have to keep doing what I am for this team - defense and rebounding. I want to keep growing from there."
Each year, Boyle said Roberson "gets a little smarter, more experienced, a little craftier. But what makes him a great rebounder, I wish I could say I could coach. If I could, we'd have 10 of 'em. He's pretty special."
At the same time, Roberson is a curious study that runs contrary to rebounding fundamentals. Just imagine what he might do if he boxed out? Most of his board work is accomplished through an instinctive pursuit of the ball and his superb athleticism.
"Andre is not a great box-out guy," admitted Boyle, who assigned Roberson defensively to Stanford's 6-10 Dwight Powell rather than 6-7 Josh Huestis. "We afraid he couldn't box Huestis out. Josh Scott (6-10) would and could . . . it's one of those coaching clinic conversations: would you rather have a guy who can box out every time or who never boxes out and just goes and gets the rebound? (Roberson) is the first guy I ever coached who I said, 'Don't box out, just go get the rebound.'"
That's what Roberson does, and an added benefit is that his passion for scouring the glass has crept into his defense. For the third consecutive season, he's also leading the Buffs in steals (39), blocked shots (28) and is averaging 10.6 points. Those cumulative numbers should make him NBA worthy, but when is the question for the 16 NBA scouts expected to attend Sunday's game.
Roberson, said Boyle, has become a much better post defender, mainly because he has "great feet, a great mind and can anticipate well. He gets in passing lanes and gets to balls and rebounds. He just went and got the first three or four rebounds against Stanford. From the opening tip he was dialed in."
Roberson is aware of his leadership value to the Buffs and how his early play on Thursday night set emotional and physical tones that flowed for the next 40 minutes. "I feel like I play a big part in that," he said. "There's a couple of guys on this team who play a part in the energy thing, too. But (Thursday) night, I told the guys to get after it. (Stanford) was the only team that beat us here in conference. It wasn't a great feeling. I told the guys to get after it and it started with me, being a leader on the team. I just kept it rolling."
Unlike Stanford with its knock-around style, said Boyle, Cal (11-7, 3-3) relies on finesse, talent and skill. "They won't bang you; their 'bigs' are tall and skinny." But, he added, guards Allen Crabbe (19.9 ppg) and Justin Cobb (14.3 ppg) are fast and potent scorers.
At 3-4 in the Pac-12 (13-6 overall), CU is within a game of reaching .500 and moving into fourth place in the conference standings. There is a three-team log jam at third - Arizona, Arizona State and Washington are at 4-2 - and with a win Sunday the Buffs would have overtaken the two teams ahead of them in fourth.
But like his coach, Roberson isn't ready to say the Buffs have turned any corners. Still, he likes what he's seen over the past three games. "I don't know how many games it would take, but it starts in practice," he said. "It's just the carryover from practices. We have good practices. (Thursday) I feel like it finally carried over into the game, as far as the offense moving the ball and playing great defense as a team. If we do that every team, nobody can beat us. It's all up to us.
"We're unstoppable when everybody gets on the same page and is clicking . . . we showed a little bit of that in Charleston, then had a little slump. But we're picking it back up now."
It's happening at the right time, and if it continues - if that corner is indeed turned - February and March could be special.