BOULDER - With freshman center Josh Scott on the bench in jeans and a team pullover, the Colorado Buffaloes needed someone to fill the void Thursday night against Utah. Turns out it wasn't a question of whom, but how many.
Getting stand-up performances from players in stand-in roles and a typical night's work from Andre Roberson, the Buffs put away the Utes 60-50 at the Coors Events Center.
"It was a must win," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "It wasn't pretty but we found a way to get it done."
It followed a bitter overtime loss to Arizona State last Saturday and avenged an equally bitter loss in Salt Lake City earlier this month. Utah (11-15 overall, 3-11 Pac-12 Conference) won that one 58-55, withstanding a rally that almost brought CU back from a 22-point second-half deficit.
In the rematch, CU (18-8, 8-6) never got itself in that predicament, taking control with a 17-5 run to open the second half. The Buffs got 13 points from Spencer Dinwiddie, 12 from Sabatino Chen, 10 from Roberson and season-high nine from Jeremy Adams off the bench. Roberson added 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and two steals.
And among Roberson's 11 boards was his 1,000th career rebound. He is in second place (1,006) at CU, trailing only Stephane Pelle (1,054).
"It means a lot," Roberson said, mainly because of Boyle's emphasis on defense and rebounding. Roberson said he took that emphasis "to heart . . . it's a great accomplishment for me and I'm not done working."
Boyle called Roberson "the best defender in America and without a doubt in the Pac-12 . . . he doesn't get enough credit." Boyle said Chen "was terrific defensively and getting the ball in the lane." Adams, he said, contributed "critical minutes in both halves."
And then there was Beau Gamble, whose contribution didn't appear on the stat sheet and went unseen by the 9,823 at the CEC. According to Roberson, after the Utes "disrespected" the Buffs by banging on their locker room door at halftime, Gamble waded through and "messed up their huddle" before the Utes took the court.
Said Roberson: "We were behind him 100 percent. We're not going to let anybody come in on our home court and punk us - so that's how it is."
If CU needed an edge to start the final 20 minutes, maybe Gamble's "walk-through" provided it - although the visitors didn't appreciate it. Whatever, the Buffs limited the Utes to 31.9 percent from the field and outrebounded them 22-14 in the second half.
Boyle also called for increased ball pressure and trapping Utah's guards, which helped bring CU back in Salt Lake City. "They had to call some time outs (and) the traps took them out of some of their set plays," Boyle said.
Scott was still in recovery mode from the elbow to the head received in last weekend's brutally physical overtime loss to Arizona State. Boyle said Scott "is still day-to-day . . . I don't know when he'll be back. But until he gets back we're going to need Shane (Harris-Tunks), Andre and everyone else."
CU opened with a small starting lineup, using the 6-4 Chen in Scott's place. Scott's absence left the 6-11 Harris-Tunks as the Buffs' biggest inside presence. Along with Roberson, Harris-Tunks was counted on to contend with Utah's Jason Washburn, a 6-10 senior who entered the game averaging 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds a game.
Harris-Tunks played five first-half minutes, with Roberson proving most effective against Washburn, who had scored in double figures in 14 of the past 16 games and had four double-doubles in Pac-12 play. One of his double-doubles (13 points, 11 rebounds) was against the Buffs on Feb. 2. Washburn finished Thursday night with 10 points and five boards.
"They were smaller, but they have a quick team," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "I thought the energy and movement really got them going. They kept the ball moving (and) we struggled to get the ball inside."
Dinwiddie, who had averaged 23 points in his last three games, entered Thursday night having made 32 consecutive free throws. He went two-for-four in the first half but was the catalyst in the Buffs closing with a 9-2 run to take a 30-28 lead at intermission. He also hit four-of-four in the final 46 seconds, enabling CU to close out the win.
To Boyle's chagrin, CU allowed Utah to shoot 50 percent (10-for-20) from the field in the first 20 minutes and gave up a two-rebound advantage (15-13). But minus Scott, CU's bench made a contribution, outscoring Utah's 8-2, with Adams getting six of his total in the first half.
"I was talking to some of my teammates and some of the guys who come off the bench and said, 'Hey, we've got to make up for Josh, if not by scoring then by rebounding,'" he said. "And I think we did a great job."
The Buffs' second-half challenges: tighter defense and better ball movement that hopefully would produce a higher second-half field goal percentage (42.3). CU attempted 17 first-half treys (hitting four), but Boyle refrained from telling his players to cease and desist.
"It's such a big part of our offense and we really need it," he said. But knocking a few down would help, and in the second half the Buffs attempted just seven more and hit two. Revving up their rebounding effort in the second half helped the Buffs outscore the Utes 14-8 on second-chance points.
After Utah freshman Jordan Loveridge - a former CU recruit - canned a three-pointer to put the Utes up 31-30 to start the second half, the Buffs answered with an 8-0 run to go to up 38-31. CU got its points in that surge on a tip-in by Xavier Johnson and back-to-back treys by Askia Booker and Chen.
Sensing the night might be slipping away, Krystkowiak called a timeout. But the Utes whiffed on that possession and Booker hit one of two free throws (39-31) and Roberson added a layup to push the Buffs' lead to double digits (41-31).
Utah crept to within five points but CU responded with six consecutive points, completing a 17-5 run for a 47-36 advantage with 12:22 remaining. The big lead didn't last, but neither did Utah's energy.
The Utes pulled to within five points three times in the final 6:25, but got no closer. The Buffs made five of six free throws - four of them by Dinwiddie one of two by Chen - to account for the final margin.
CU travels to the Bay Area next week to play Stanford (Wednesday, Feb. 27) and California (Saturday, March 2) on its final regular-season road trip.